The Orange winegrowers came to town this week. What a bunch of classy wines.

One fact binds them all together – that of elevation. The region is generally depicted as having all vineyards sited above 600 metres.

Now that effectively eliminates most other Australian vineyard regions save the Granite Belt, New England and Tumbarumba – all essentially east Coast Australia with Orange dotted in the Central Ranges of NSW.

These high elevation sites form part of the Great Dividing Range and their wines unmistakably cool climate.

The Orange bunches stood out with riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay whites, importantly pinot noir, then shiraz and the cabernet family with a little new Mediterranean stuff (barbera, tempranillo, sangiovese, savagnin etc).

This is an exciting place-the brands are small but at the high quality end.

Even the sauvignon blanc is not made in the simplistic Marlborough NZ mould, but the opposite, dumbing down the obvious and chasing wine texture. Hooray.

Here I review a range of whites.

Mayfield Vineyard Riesling 2010; 12% (USD 30); ++++; well how pleasant, single vineyard, pale colour, attractive smells in the flower spectrum, just heavenly then the most delicate palate, racy, mineral, lime zest (hints not overdosed), long and ultra-fine for light bodied wine, acid high of course, that’s the animal.

Mayfield Vineyard Riesling 2009

I met Charlotte Gundry, the GM who works with the family brand. Vineyards in Icely Road occupy 800-920 m elevation. The riesling enjoys the terroir, very old, weathered, gravelly soils with a north-east face contribute to its minerality and high raciness. That’s fine riesling.

Patina Riesling 2009; 12.5% (USD18);+++; I encountered an additional style, having one delicious nose, engrossing from the cool growing conditions and preserved aromas in the cool ferment, then the lovely line of sweet salivating acidity, yet plenty and deftly held low body weight.

Patina Riesling 2009

Patina is the business of Gerald Naef in Summerhill Lane, his vineyard is at 930 m, and his wines are distinctive.

Logan Weemala Riesling 2009; 12.6% (USD 16); +++; is decidedly a German parallel, pale lime nose, quite pretty too, then the differing palate, a dab of sugar (9 grams) and counter-balancing acids (7.5 grams), makes for a light wine with a fuller mouth effect from sweetness-very food friendly with Asian spice levels.

Logan Weemala Riesling 2009

Peter Logan is the MD; he has made a study of German riesling, mainly the Nahe and hence the off-dry style which grips the people making wine in those areas. White varieties are grown at 1000 m and reds at 850 m.

Angullong Fossil Hill Pinot Gris 2011; 13.5% (USD 24); +++1/2; is a good example from a tough season, just bottled, very exotic nose, yet restrained on the second sniff, gladly it is not called pinot grigio as it has the slippery palate, is not simple; has the nice texture which drinkers enjoy.

Angullong Fossil Hill Pinot Gris 2011

Ben Crossing is the owner: his vineyard is at the foothills of the mountain, Canobolas, at 600-650m.

Brangayne of Orange Isolde Reserve Chardonnay 2009; 14% (USD 30); ++++; is very good, perfume, oak nuttiness but restrained, the palate ever-so-long, in this climate the chardonnays are slow maturing, this included, crisp, bright and stylish.

Brangayne of Orange Isolde Reserve Chardonnay 2009

I met Marianne Brown; petite and polite, she described her wines’ distinctiveness and reason for enjoyment; vines are planted at 950-1050 m for whites, 850 m for red varieties.

Ross Hill Pinaccle Chardonnay 2009; 13%; (USD 30); ++++; smells succulent then goes towards restraint, has a long flavour, mid-palate subtlety, nuts, limes, fabulous length and still youth, something that only time can alter for the better, still young wine.

Ross Hill Pinnacle Chardonnay 2009

I met James Robson; his vineyards are at 900 m for pinot, 800 m other reds, and 750 m for sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. As is often the case, this is old apple orchard country, and the family winery is a renovated apple packing shed.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

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