Great Southern Riesling lies at the very core of Howard Park’s identity. It was the first white wine we produced back in 1986, and since then we have had an unbroken run of consecutive vintages that tell the evolving story of the brand, the variety and the region.

Riesling has naturally high acidity making it ideal for long-term ageing, revealing richness, roundness and layers of complexity as the decades pass. Over the years our vineyards, winemakers, and even our labels have changed, but the superb quality of our Riesling has always remained the same.

Every once in a while, we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to look back in time through the lens of wines that have been tucked away for safekeeping in the cellar. The story that they tell is an exciting exploration of the journey of Howard Park and more widely of Riesling in the Great Southern.

Most recently, a fortunate few were able to peek back through the annals of Howard Park by tasting 16 vintages of Riesling spanning 25 years and 5 winemakers. All but the oldest three were under screw cap, reflecting our move to the more reliable closure in 2001, which has allowed us to cellar the wines for much longer with confidence.

This event was possible only through the generosity of one of our Perth-based Wine Club members, Allan Wilkerson. Allan is a committed collector of Howard Park who appreciates the enjoyment and insight gained from tasting and evaluating wines with a like-minded group. The majority of the wines in this tasting on February 1st came from Allan’s own cellar.

Our Wine Club Manager David Stredwick can testify to Allan’s excellent storage conditions and has been lucky enough to join the group for three verticals over the last eight years. Allan also takes comprehensive notes of the group’s impressions of the wines, and his published record of this tasting can be enjoyed in full here. We would encourage Riesling lovers to read the full tasting notes and enjoy Allan’s detailed account

As a summary, the wines were tasted from youngest to oldest and this is what they revealed…

The first bracket ranged from 2022 to 2016 and included the wine later voted as “wine of the night”, the 2018 vintage. As to be expected 2022 was vibrant and lively, filled with bright fruit and floral characteristics. The palate offered great length coupled with cleansing acidity. 2020 was richer, leaning more into the preserved lemon realm with stone fruit and lime cordial coming into play on the palate.

2018 had a pronounced nose boasting orange peel, lime pith, sherbet, herbs and white flowers. The palate was incredibly well-balanced. 2016 had a lighter-than-expected colour, yet the merest hint of petrol on the nose was the first indication of its development, which was then reaffirmed on the palate with notes of lemon cordial accompanied by tart, zingy acid and some dill.

The following two brackets ranged from 2015 to 2008 and covered eight consecutive vintages. 2012 was noted to mark a point of difference between the previous youthful wines and the more developed wines to follow. While 2015, 2014, and 2013 had their differences they all showed plenty of citrus fruit, floral notes and bright acidity.

2012 was a transition in terms of style, moving more towards the richer, riper aromatic profile of aged Riesling. 2012, 2011, and 2010 were all very highly regarded and represented a strong streak of vintages. Each possessed an intense and complex nose with subtle nuances setting them apart. On the palate, 2010 showed the most development with subtle caramelized notes while 2012 and 2011 both showed great depth and complexity, with a mix of primary and secondary flavours balanced by tangy citrus.

2009 was again a warm year yet it revealed similar characteristics to 2011. 2008 was the stand out of this coupling as it retained its youthful vibrancy and was reminiscent of 2010 with gardenia and dried flowers on the nose and plenty of primary fruit on the palate.

The last four wines were all 20 years of age or older, so this section of the tasting marked a transition into the secondary and tertiary aromatic and flavour profile with all wines resolutely in the deep gold category in terms of hue. From 2000 backward, the wines all showed obvious signs of development and the influence of the cork closure allowing more ingress of oxygen. 2000 boasted caramel, aniseed, liquorice, vanilla and honey on the nose with lime cordial, salinity, balsamic strawberry and leather polish coming through on the palate. It reminded the group of Manzanilla sherry.

1999 was highly regarded as the best of the 20+-year-old wines. Caramel, dried peaches and pears, quince and sultana formed a tantalising nose while some residual sugar filled out the palate with lime marmalade and muscadelle grape flavours. 1998 was the first and only wine to show any sign of fading but it still displayed notes of orange marmalade as well as burned or cooked orange. The last three wines were definitely in their tertiary development, but still showed great depth, intensity and palate richness.

The beauty of comparative tasting is that one can appreciate the incredible ability of Riesling to evolve over decades, telling a fascinating and delicious story along the way. The consistency of style and quality of fruit was evident throughout the whole tasting. In the end, the group could not agree on one set drinking window, deciding each wine provided its own pleasurable experience, no matter its age or development. It was concluded that tertiary development takes approximately 10 to 11 years to make itself noticeable in these wines.

We hope this summary and Allan’s more detailed notes have been enlightening as to the many virtues of Riesling as it evolves. We are aware that many of our wine club members may have some of these bottles laying in their cellars at this very moment. Maybe this will inspire you to explore some of those aged wines, or perhaps to continue storing away your more youthful Riesling for a later date.

One of the many benefits of joining our Wine Club is the access that you get to these aged wines. As a part of this exploration, we are offering our members the rare opportunity to purchase some of our favourite back vintage Rieslings through the website at member exclusive prices. If you have yet to join the Wine Club do so now to access these wines and also to stay in the loop for exclusive events focused on older wines that we may have in the future.