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Sunday 9 April 2023

A little slice of Alsace in regional NSW

Colmar is a beautiful and historic town in the east of France, surrounded by vineyards in the Alsace region.

The old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings and is overlooked by the Gothic 13th-century Eglise Saint-Martin church.

Alsace, which has switched between being part of France and part of what is now Germany over the ages, is renowned for producing some of the finest riesling and gewürztraminer wines in the world.

That's why one small Orange region vineyard, that specialises in rieslings, is called Colmar Estate (above).

Colmar Estate is owned by long-time Alsace wine lovers and now vignerons Bill and Jane Shrapnel, who purchased the cool climate, six-hectare vineyard in 2013. The wines are made in conjunction with consultant Will Rykard-Bell. 

The vineyard sits at an elevation of 980 metres on Orange’s Mount Canobolas.

Planted in the 1990s, the vineyard is one of Australia’s highest and comprises riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz.

Riesling is the star of the show and Colmar Estate is heralding 2022 as their best riesling vintage to date.

It has released three wines in different styles - all them excellent.

The wines comprise the 2022 Colmar Estate ‘Reserve’ Riesling ($55), 2022 Colmar Estate ‘Block 5’ Riesling ($45), and 2022 Colmar Estate Riesling ($35).

“The 2022 harvest was the latest we have experienced,” says Bill. “Whereas we normally pick our riesling in March, in 2022 we started picking on April 19 , and finished on May 3.

"Ultimately, we harvested the most beautiful riesling we have seen - clean as a whistle, beautifully ripe and with scintillating acidity.”

Those characteristics are evident across the three wines.

The 2022 Colmar ‘Reserve’ Riesling is the funkiest of the three, some components seeing extended skin contact, with some skins in the ferment. Another component was matured in seasoned French puncheons, with a later-picked parcel fermented in stainless steel.

“The winemaking was directed at building complexity and layers that would complement and not detract from the quality of the pristine fruit,” says Bill.

The 2022 Colmar ‘Block 5’ Riesling is made from a single vineyard block - and was my favourite of the three; pristine and varietal with lively acidity.

"Block 5 produces riesling that is lighter and finer than its counterpart,” says Bill.

The 2022 Colmar Riesling is made in a medium dry style with 12 grams per litre of residual sugar that is balanced by the characteristic regional acidity. One that would pair brilliantly with spicy Asian dishes from Thailand, Vietnam or Korea.

“It is an exciting time in Orange for riesling,” says Bill. “In nine years we haven’t seen the quality of the 2022 vintage; wonderful aromas, strikingly beautiful flavours, great purity, and sizzling acidity. Taking inspiration from the best European riesling producers, we are exploring new styles with the objective of producing distinctive, regional wines.”

For details, and to order, visit

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