2019 Wine of the Year: Duke’s Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling

James Halliday by James Halliday for Vintec

Until now, no white wine has received a score of 99 points. Read about the Western Australian example to break the record.

Selling their successful clothing manufacturing business in Perth didn’t leave Hilde and Ian (Duke) Ransom wondering what they would do next. Hilde is an artist of some note, so her views were of prime importance. Duke’s vision was even more focused – he says, “I have drunk wine for 60 years, good wine for 40 years and very good wine for 20 years”, and goes on to explain, “I took Hilde for some long drives in the Australian countryside, mostly wine regions”. They wended their way through South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Canberra, finally slowing down as they reached the Western Australia’s Great Southern region. Having looked at more than 50 properties, they bought the tranquil Magpie Hill Farm.

They set about creating a large dam, but – despite the Department of Agriculture and Food having given it a glowing report – the dam builder and a local water guru agreed the property could never catch or hold water. A week later the property was back on the market. Duke went for a drive to clear his mind and saw a for sale sign being erected on a site two kilometres down the road. Duke drove into the beautiful property and made an offer, which was soon accepted.

Time has shown that Duke’s belief the vineyard would be ideal for riesling (“Our wine of choice and the wine of the region,” he says) was correct. Rob Diletti (of Castle Rock) makes the wines with infinite skill and sensitivity. Duke and Hilde have the Duke’s Vineyard Magpie Hill property on the market at the time of writing, and have purchased a two-acre block on the water’s edge in Albany. I wish them well for their second-time-around retirement, and warn the local fish that there are two strangers in town.

I leave you with excerpts from the 11 tasting notes covering the 2006–17 vintages. ‘A celebration of the purity, elegance, drive, and length of a wine … that will outlive your patience’ (’17); ‘Its blossom-filled bouquet a short introduction to a wine that takes the palate in an instant and refuses to let go … its array of lemon and lime flavours remorselessly building intensity from start to finish’ (’15); ‘Exceptional clarity, purity and intensity, a long exciting life ahead; lime, apple and mineral characters coalesce on the palate and aftertaste’ (’10).

Explore more of the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.