Sarah’s sweet riesling has an acid bite

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Sarah Collingwood, the CEO of Four Winds… “We wanted to make a food-friendly wine.”

A CIRCLE walked into a bar. The barman looks up and says: “Your round”. That feeling of being the giver descends when my adult children and I gather and we decide to taste wine at my expense: the only price is to grin and bear my dad jokes and give thanks for the wonder of family.

Richard Calver.

The evening was very warm, with Canberra suddenly displaying heat of continuing intensity. A cold riesling and some chilli chicken were the way to beat the heat. Chilli makes us sweat.

“Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli, stimulates the thermoreceptors in our mouth and we sweat hence cooling ourselves down,” I pontificate with my pigeon pair actively waiting for a punchline that I don’t have.

The rieslings are a Four Winds Vineyard 2018 and a Nick O’Leary 2018. Both are priced at under $30.

We pour the wine into six glasses, two each and I think washing up! But then realise the chef doesn’t clean. The initial swirl in the glass has been perfected, looking at how much sticks to the glass to measure body. They sniff, noses deep into the glass. The initial thoughts:

“The O’Leary has more mouth feel,” says my son as my heart leaps with pride at the absorption of the fatherly jargon. “It is bigger and bolder and complex.”

My daughter agrees. “The Four Winds is subtler, has a real citrus finish,” she says and my heart races – again, the language of wine is being used.

“As I serve the chicken, I say: “You do know that this is all made from scratch, no tinned food or shortcuts?” They look perplexed and nod.

“Yes,” I say, “but I did have a tin once that wasn’t a tin.”


“Yes, it was uncanny.”


“Lucky the food’s good,” says my son.

Speaking of which, the Four Winds opens up with food and its acidity seems to better suit the chilli taste than the bolder O’Leary wine.

This was memorable and I wanted to get the winery’s take on this element of the comparison. I called Sarah Collingwood, the CEO of Four Winds.

“Yes, we went for a light, citrusy, refreshing flavour, a little sweet but with a bit of an acid bite. We wanted to make a food-friendly wine.”

I asked why the 2018 Canberra rieslings seemed so good. Sarah said that the Canberra area produces consistently good rieslings, that it is a grape entirely suited to the terroir and the climate.

“In fact,” she said, “we have a PHD student with us at the moment and she is studying the effect of cool nights on aromatics.”

“Cool,” I said lamely.

She went on: “We get great rieslings and the only time that they aren’t going to be okay is if there is loads of rain around picking.”

I also asked Sarah what it was like to be a female CEO. She said that there were a number of women in the wine industry in Canberra that were doing well and that “we just gotta own it!”

Her enthusiasm was as refreshing as the wine.

We are very lucky in Canberra to have an area suited to this elegant grape variety that is good value for money and of world-standard quality.

I asked Sarah if she could send me a list of any medals her 2018 riesling had won. And top of the list was a gold medal in the Australian Cool Climate Wine Show. Praise the heavens.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –GK Chesterton

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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