RIVERBANK Estate Winery has been named as a winery to watch by the doyen of Australian wine, landing a spot as a Top Ten Dark Horse Winery for 2021 in the Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2021.
Compiled by James Halliday OA, the leading authority on Australian wines, the Dark Horse Winery list is comprised of wineries that, for the first time, have achieved a five-star rating with an established history of lesser ratings.
RiverBank Estate was the only WA winery to reach the list, which is not simply based on ratings, according to RiverBank senior winemaker Digby Leddin.
“My goal when I started here, after 20 years at Lamont’s, was to get on the Dark Horse list so I’m very happy we made it.
“It’s Halliday saying we’re a winery to watch.
“You can get five stars and not get on that list, he’s obviously said there’s something else happening and we’re making some wines that are pretty interesting.
“Coming from James Halliday, that’s pretty nice.”
The origin of those interesting wines can be traced back to a moment that was as close to a disaster as any winery is likely to have.
In 2017, two weeks after owner Eric Lembo purchased the winery, the Swan River flooded, taking with it 60 per cent of the winery’s crop.
Mr Lembo said on the day that the winery could only go up from there, and Mr Leddin said it forced them to think outside the box.
“The flood could be seen as a curse, but when you look at the Halliday guide, it forced us to go outside our estate for fruit, so the Granache that got 95 points was because we had to go looking for fruit, the sparkling from that year was because we had to go looking for fruit, and it also developed the house style of Rosé, which we make the same every year from exactly the same blend we used in the flood year.
“While it was a tough start, it basically defined us.
“It shook us up, it was a big vintage but what we came away with we’re pretty happy with.”