The annual challenge and the opportunity that confronts most winemakers worth the name explains why each accepts the gruelling vintage hours, and the inadequate pay. The challenge is to make greater wines than ever before, and if the growing season was marred by bad weather, to better handle the ensuing grapes. In terms of of overall time, one-third sets the foundation, and two-thirds is that much-used expression ‘attention to detail.’
It is of course true that once a wine is bottled the only detail is the cellar’s temperature and relative humidity, much easier to manage with a screwcap than a cork, but that’s another issue. Reverting to changes of wines in tank or barrel, the moment primary ferment is completed in less than a month, the seemingly endless days of sniffing, tasting and analytical testing stretch into the next year.
Then there are the increases in the vines’ capacity to handle testing conditions as they age, in the winemaker’s internal database of historical knowledge of these changes, and the dramatic changes such as intelligent grape harvesters and in-winery equipment.
So where does this place Rob Diletti of the family Castle Rock winery in the Porongurup subregion of the far south of Western Australia? He is highly intelligent and modest, has a superb palate, and has grown up with the 200-tonne winery the family built onsite in 2000. He was the recipient of the inaugural Winemaker of the Year Award in my 2015 Wine Companion.
The countless trophies and gold medals leave no doubt about Diletti’s skills, although he pays tribute to father Angelo’s decision to select this truly unique east-facing 55ha property. But Rob has risen to the self-set challenge of the complex and demanding Reserve range profiled this week using techniques very different to those of the brilliantly cut and polished standard (also ludicrously cheap) wines. For more go to www.castlerockestate.com.au
2021 Castle Rock Estate Diletti Porongurup Riesling
Free run juice is fermented in puncheon and barriques. The bouquet gives hints that are transformed on a palate with its operatic trumpets of flavours circling the ultra-intense lime/lemon core. One of the most spectacular young Australian rieslings I have encountered. That length, that power.
98 points, drink to 2041, 11% alc, Screwcap, $36
2021 Castle Rock Estate Diletti Porongurup Chardonnay
Cloudy juice, wild fermented in French oak (20% new); part left on yeast lees after fermentation. Grapefruit zest and pith on the one hand, creamy cashew on the other. The complex inputs coalesce to form a long, poised palate; will mature gracefully.
95 points, drink to 2030, 12% alc, Screwcap, $36
2021 Castle Rock Estate Diletti Porongurup Pinot Noir
100% hand-picked and whole bunch fermented, 9 months’ maturation in old French barriques. It’s an amazing wine, with a palate of extreme intensity and silky length. Cherries, rose petals, mouth-watering savoury tannins all in balance and harmony.
97 points, drink to 2031, 13.5% alc, Screwcap, $46