2010 Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling

There are a number of white wines in Australia that are real crowd-pleasers and this unique blend of 67% Crouchen and 33% Riesling from Brown Brothers, is one of them. We all know that Riesling is one of the world's classic white grape varieties but I will concentrate upon the Crouchen component of this blend primarily as it falls under the mantle of rare grape varietal status.

Crouchen or Crouchen Blanc originated in the Pyrenees wine region of south-west France and by all accounts it appears that this obscure white grape variety has disappeared from production there although it does come up as a variety that can be used in the wines of Bearn. South Africa - where it is called Cape Riesling but is not related to the actual Riesling varietal -  and Australia are the only two countries in the world commercially producing the variety.

A fascinating story and identity crisis of sorts emerged in Australia that lasted more than a century before the Crouchen variety was identified in the mid-1970's. Prior to this revelation, the grape it appears arrived in the 1850's from South Africa as Riesling making its way to the Clare Valley. There, it became known as Clare Riesling. It also found its way to the Barossa Valley and Riverland regions where it was called Semillon, which Australians at the time believed to be the Riesling variety! Sanity or something like that prevailed, and the name Clare Riesling stuck around until the eventual identification. Given all these machinations, another intriguing tale narrates that James Busby introduced Sales Blanc or Sable Blanc in the 1830's, both synonyms for Crouchen and a variety used in the Vin de Sable wines of the Landes department in south-west France, adding more complexity to the early history of this rare grape. 

Crouchen is rarely made as a varietal wine possibly because of its neutral flavours yet it does do well in blends. This 2010 blend has a pale straw colour with a greenish tinge to it. Enticing aromas of ripe pear, honeydew melon and citrus are graceful on the nose. The lively palate is not sweet but packed with rich fruity and spicy flavours that are balanced by the Riesling's acidity leading to a crisp yet smooth and generous finish. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this wine, having preconceptions that it would be too sweet for my liking. There is residual sugar but it is well integrated. Serve chilled and drink while young with Asian spiced foods. Widely available from local watering holes to cruise ships on the high seas, believe it or not !        

Brown Brothers has a market stranglehold on the grape and has produced the Crouchen Riesling blend since the early1970's and a further two wines of late using the it in other blends: the Crouchen Sauvignon Blanc and the Crouchen Riesling Rose, where a small percentage of Cienna is used.  

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 10.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 89+ Points. 
Website: http://www.brownbrothers.com.au/

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