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Details for Cherubino, Laissez Faire, Riesling


CountryAustralia
Region
Western Australia
(click to find out more)
AppellationPorongorup GI
Grape
Year2014
Producer
Larry Cherubino Wines
(click to find out more)
ABV11.5%


Western Australia

Western Australia is the largest Australian state, but only its south-west corner is suitable for vineyards.  It produces less than 5% of Australia’s wines but a much higher proportion of the top-quality ones.  Winemaking here began in the hot and dry Swan Valley just upstream from Perth, the state capital.  The Swan is still home to many of the region’s wineries including the giant Houghton (their “White Burgundy”, today called HWB, was for many years Australia’s biggest-selling white), but today the grapes they process are likely to have come from cooler areas to the south.
 
By far the most important and prestigious of these is Margaret River, whose position at the state’s south-western tip, facing due west into the Indian Ocean, allows it to benefit most from cool westerly winds and cold Antarctic currents.  The first wines from here emerged in the early 1970s, but rapidly established a reputation as Australia’s most elegant Cabernets and Chardonnays.  Today its zesty Sauvignon/Semillon blends are just as highly regarded.
 
100km southeast of Margaret River, the twin regions of Pemberton and Manjimup are noted for fine Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  Further east still lies the huge but sparsely populated Great Southern, which has some of the coolest and wettest vineyards in Australia.  Much of the fruit grown here is processed in Margaret River or even the Swan Valley, though a small but growing number of boutique wineries produce exciting Riesling and other cool-climate varieties.
 
Frankland River is the most important subregion of Great Southern.  It is the furthest inland, in Great Southern’s north-east corner, and shares a border with Manjimup.  Its more continental climate is tempered by it also being the highest subregion.  The deep, iron-rich, gravelly soils here are particularly suited to Bordeaux varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, but it also produces excellent Riesling and Shiraz.


Larry Cherubino Wines

Still in his mid-forties, Larry Cherubino is one of the most respected winemakers in Western Australia.  He began his career at the giant Houghton winery near Perth, where he worked a vintage as a cellar hand while a student.  This suited him so well that he postponed his studies and worked a few vintages back-to-back in Europe and at Houghton, before eventually graduating in agribusiness and horticulture.
 
He then studied oenology at the famed Roseworthy College in Adelaide, which led to a job as winemaker for Tintara Wines in South Australia.  In early 1998 he returned to Houghton and was promoted to senior winemaker within the year, a position he held until 2003 when he went solo as a consultant and flying winemaker.
 
In 2005 he founded his eponymous winery in Western Australia’s little-known Great Southern region, initally producing just a single Shiraz from an old vineyard bought the previous year.  The range grew rapidly, as did the vineyards (now at 120 hectares), and in 2011 the company was named Winery of the Year by Australian wine guru James Halliday.
 
Although most of the range is sourced from Great Southern, there are also wines from vineyards in nearby Pemberton, and from Margaret River.

about this wine About this wine


This is our first properly dry Australian Riesling, which is one of my favourite wine styles.  At first glance, one wouldn’t expect to find Riesling in Australia at all, let alone making great wine.  Australia is practically synonymous with heat and sunshine, while Riesling is the archetypal cool climate grape variety.  Its heartlands are in Germany, Austria and Alsace (France’s most northerly wine region after Champagne).
 
In fact, Riesling was one of the first varieties to be planted in Australia, at least in significant quantities.  The first sizeable wave of immigrants from a wine-producing region (so not Great Britain) came from German-speaking Silesia (then Prussian, now mostly part of Poland) in the 1850s, and they settled largely in the Barossa Valley.  You can still read their legacy in the names of famous Barossa producers like Henschke and Peter Lehmann.  They planted what they knew, which was Riesling.  They weren’t familiar with black grapes so they planted Grenache and Shiraz, because these were already successful in Australia having been introduced by James Busby in 1833.
 
The majority of wines were sweet back then, so it wasn’t quite such a disaster that Riesling overripened quickly in the hot climate.  Even so, the grape gradually migrated to the highest and coolest vineyards.  In the Barossa area, that meant the Clare and Eden valleys.
 
It was in the Clare that the distinctive style of Aussie Riesling developed: fully dry and rather stronger (12% to 13%) than the European norm, yet still with the piercing acidity that characterises German Riesling.  Its uncompromising acidity and pungent flavours, unbuffered by sweetness, can be something of an acquired taste: a wine you graduate to after serving an apprenticeship with wines a little softer and easier.  But I love it, and it’s fantastic with food.
 
This wine isn’t actually from the Clare!  Although made in that fully dry style, it comes from even cooler (and almost as high) vineyards much further south, in the Porongurup mountains of Great Southern, the very bottom of Western Australia’s southward bulge.  These are some of the oldest mountains on earth, their granite dating back to the Precambrian era.  They’re also the highest part of Great Southern (snow is not unknown in winter) and particularly famed for their Riesling.
 
This one comes from one of our favourite producers: Larry Cherubino, the wizard of Western Australia and champion of Great Southern.  We’ve featured two of his wines before, but they were both red.  He’s probably even more famed for his whites, and especially his Rieslings.
 
This comes from his Laissez Faire range, made with minimal intervention in the winery: no cultured yeasts, no chemical adjustments (most Australian wine is acidified) and no sulphur dioxide until bottling.  A consequence of this approach is lots of vintage variation, especially this far south.  This is anathema to most Aussie winemakers, who pride themselves on being able to produce a consistent product year in, year out.
 
In the technophile Australian wine scene, aficionados demand (and producers publish) detailed chemical analyses of each wine.  So I can tell you that this 2014 has pH 2.8, total acidity 9.04g/l, residual sugar 0.53g/l and alcohol 11.5%.  (Yes, I know the label already says 11.5% alcohol, but EU labels have to be in 0.5% increments and are allowed to be 0.5% out; if this wine had actually been 11.6%, the Cherubino website would say so.)
 
That’s more than half a percent weaker than most vintages of this wine, reflecting the cool vintage.  The 2015 is 12.2% (and is listed as 12.5% in the EU).  Those 2014 acidity numbers are impressive… or scary, depending on your viewpoint.  The textbooks say most wines lie between pH 3.3 and 3.7, and almost all between pH 3 and pH 4. The pH scale is logarithmic, so pH 3 is actually ten times more acidic than pH4.
 
Consequently pH 2.8 is quite extreme, lying somewhere between lemon juice and grapefruit juice.  A pH level like this, and a total acidity above 8g/l, is generally only ever seen in sweet wines which need the acidity to balance the sweetness.  Coca-Cola has a pH of 2.5 but doesn’t taste that sharp because it’s so sweet (sugar 106g/l) – and vice versa.
 
But there’s no sweetness here.  Anything under 5g/l is considered dry, and most grape juice has 1 or 2 g/l of unfermentable sugars like xylose anyway.  0.58g/l is the lowest figure I’ve ever seen: dry like Jack Dee or the Atacama desert.
 


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