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Food

Best of the Best RAS President's Medal

The president’s medal is a unique prize honouring the very best in Australian food and beverage production.

When John Fairley steps into the milking yard of his iconic artisan dairy at Picton, south-west of Sydney, the motley assortment of Jersey, Friesian and Swiss Red cows congregating in the early morning mist barely respond. Their udders are huge and distended, yet the cows are perfectly at ease, trustful, and content with the calm, persistent rhythm of the farm. He walks deliberately, purposefully, and with a composure that silently echoes off the hillsides. John doesn’t farm this land, he exists within it.

A seventh-generation dairyman, John has a connection to land that is about as profound as it can be. He loves this country, and the cattle, and the milk they produce together. It’s a deep and abiding affection that underscores the quality of his remarkable milk. And the milk is truly remarkable. It’s rich and creamy, with a distinctly grassy note, the season’s sweet clover obvious on the nose. This is quite unlike large-scale commercial milk, for its flavour is infused with the terroir of Picton.

EXCELLENCE AND IMPROVEMENT

In 2008, John and his team from Country Valley Milk were awarded the President’s Medal, Australia’s highest honour for food and beverage producers. It is an accolade that recognises not only brilliant produce, but also the extraordinary people, businesses, systems and measures of environmental management and community engagement that must underpin all great agriculture and production. Food and beverage is not simply about what we bring to the table, it’s about our place in society, now and into the future, and a relationship with the environment and our communities. A broad proposition, it must be careful, respectful and manageable.

To that end, the President’s Medal is unique as it not only recognises excellence, but actively encourages improvement in all areas, for the winners and their competitors. This award is about ensuring Australia will have even better food and beverages, embodying the highest levels of product integrity.

Established in 2006, the Medal is managed by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW. Open to farmers, producers and manufacturers from all over Australia, it is the distillation of the year-round competitions in Fine Food, Dairy Produce, Wine, Beer & Cider, and Chocolate. Overall champions from each division are pitted against one another in a triple-bottom- line analysis to find the very best of the best. This involves a rigorous examination of business plans, operational practices, community engagement and environmental management systems, global strategy and market acceptance.

WINNING BENEFITS

Many past winners are household names in fine dining – Tathra Oysters, Holy Goat Cheese, Milly Hill Lamb – while others are global brands like Bulla, Yalumba and Hardy’s. The President’s Medal reveals small manufacturers who think globally, and industrial players with the heart of an artisan.

Benefits for all those involved are diverse. The process compels them to engage in new and productive ways with the challenges specific to their business, to find answers to stubborn questions, and to seek out new ways of marketing themselves. In addition, all competitors are exposed to a range of quality advice from industry professionals, chefs and retail experts about improvements they might consider, or ways to differentiate and grow. This is an invaluable consultation usually out of the reach and budget of most artisans.

EYES ON THE PRIZE

Then there’s the prize itself. A cash reward is provided by the RAS, along with a marketing package from one of Australia’s leading minds, Michael McQueen, and help with story production from Jason van Genderen, one of the world’s best film producers and filmmakers. This award is not simply about recognition, it’s engineered to help our very best produce companies grow, thrive and excel.

There’s a great deal Australians can be proud of when it comes to our food and beverage industries. Diversity, innovation, resilience and excellence are all common values. Consequently, judging the President’s Medal is a daunting task, not simply because the entrants are from such diverse businesses, but because the economic, social and environmental standards are so high. But they will be judged, and a winner will be chosen.

A DELICIOUS CELEBRATION

To celebrate those achievements, the RAS is hosting The President’s Medal Awards Night in November, where a bespoke menu will be crafted by one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield in conjunction with Sydney Showground’s Tim Browne, using all the champion ingredients from this year’s competitors. It promises to be a delicious evening to which everyone is invited. Tickets will be available through www.rasnsw.com.au/presidents_medal. If you love great food, and want to taste Australia’s finest, this is an evening not to be missed.

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Embracing isolation with Frankland Estate’s Hunter Smith
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One of the more unique members of your team is Gladys – what contribution does she make to the vineyard? As a family, we don’t believe in hierarchy in the workplace, but Gladys is the matriarch of our amazing Guinea fowl flock. Every year, Barrie incubates eggs found by the vineyard workers and a breeding program sees a few hundred new birds added to the team. Under Gladys command, they help control pests such as weevils. It’s all the one percenters that help make a successful organic farming system. What difference do you think your organic approach made to the 2015 Riesling? I could bang on about organics for hours, but what I will say is, we have seen vine health improve remarkably through the attention to detail in every aspect of nutrition, soil biology and climatic conditions. As a result, we are seeing very exciting developments to fruit balance and we are finding natural acidity is retained nicely. We have also been able to increase ripening a fraction, giving this wine delicious generosity of flavour, while maintaining that delicate and a nervous framework of acidity that make Frankland Estate Rieslings a stand out. In our 2017 calendar, your Riesling is matched with steamed snapper with Asian flavours – what’s your favourite meal to enjoy with it? That sounds pretty good! Being just an hour’s drive to the Southern Ocean, I love sitting on the beach catching fresh whiting and the humble herring, these cooked over an open fire with a Riesling (with a couple of years’ age) is spectacular.   What’s your favourite wine memory? Gosh, too many great wine moments to pin it down to one, but a very memorable night was 10 years ago when our great late friend and wine importer to the USA John Larchet, with his great friend Ray Harris and a group of fellow Australian winemakers, spent an unbelievable evening enjoying some of Ray’s finest bottles in his New York apartment overlooking the NYC skyline. I remember thinking I would never see some of these wines again and I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was to be sitting on the other side of the world in a city so far removed from our Isolation Ridge vineyard in Frankland River, a special memory! What’s your favourite… Way to spend time off? With the family on the farm or at the beach. Holiday destination? Bremer Bay (south coast WA) whales, fishing, spectacular white beaches and probably even more remote than Frankland River! It’s a must see for anyone that’s never been. Wine and food match? I don’t get too caught up with that, if there’s food and wine, I’ll be there! Sporting team? Wallabies (sometimes!) Book? Something with a bit of Australian history – I always enjoy reading, nothing too dry!  I’m reading Peter FitzSimons’ Eureka right now, which is a good read.
Wine
Meet the Maker – Oliver’s Taranga
Spend some time with Winemaker Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga, whose 2016 Fiano is our September Wine of the Month . Your Oliver’s Taranga vineyards are located in McLaren Vale , what makes the region so special? I think that McLaren Vale is such a beautiful region- the vines, the beaches, the food, the proximity to Adelaide. Pretty much Utopia! Your family has a fantastic grape growing history in McLaren Vale dating back to 1841. In 1994 you made and launched the first Oliver’s Taranga branded wine – is that correct? Yes, I am the 6th generation to grow grapes on our Taranga vineyard in McLaren Vale. So we are 176 years and still going strong! In 1994, I started my oenology degree and began making some wines from the vineyard after begging my Grandpa for some fruit. He was pretty keen to sell some wine to his bowls mates, so he was on board. I suppose things just grew and grew from there. I was working for Southcorp Wines and making Oliver’s Taranga on the side. Eventually, Oliver’s Taranga took over, and we renovated one of the old worker’s cottages on the property and turned it into a cellar door in 2007. We are still growers for a number of different wineries, but now around 35% of the crop from our vineyard goes to our Oliver’s Taranga brand. Find out more about the Oliver's Taranga cellar door in our McLaren Vale Winery Guide .
Six generations on, you and your cousin Brioni Oliver are winemaker and cellar manager respectively – what’s it like working with family? I love it. Brioni is actually on maternity leave at the moment –  little 7th generation Hugo was born a few weeks ago, and I am really missing her. We work well together and are focused on making our business as good as it can be. Your wine labels are quite fun and quirky – who’s responsible? We work with designer Chris Harris from Draw Studio , who has a very quirky sense of humour. Also, we know there’s a myriad of wine brands for people to choose from out there, so what makes us different? It is the people and the history, so being able to tell real stories are key to helping us stand out above the white noise! We have been on the property for 176 years now, and have many documents from back in the day. Producing the wine each year is a continuing documentation of our time on the land, so we use our little comments on the label “The Year That….” To tell something quirky that happened on the farm that year. Our Wine of the Month is your 2016 Fiano –  what is it about alternatives like Fiano that you like so much? They suit our climate and lifestyle so well. Fiano is very drought and heat tolerant and has lovely natural high acidity, it is also disease resistant and has great thick skins. Also, the resultant wine works so well with our foods and regional produce. Being coastal, we eat a lot of seafood in the region, and Fiano has lovely texture and line that works perfectly in this space. Find out more about Australian Fiano here . In our food and wine matching calendar, we’ve paired it with a delicious avocado spring salad (avocado, snow peas, radicchio, witlof, radishes, red onions, pea shoots and roasted macadamias) – what’s your choice of food partner? That sounds yum! I love it with kingfish ceviche with avocado, lime, cucumber, tomato, spring onion, coriander, salt, pepper – delish.  What’s your favourite wine memory? Probably doing the Len Evans Tutorial – a week of wine, learning, sharing and food. On a personal level, the 1996 Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs I shared with my husband on our wedding day. Other than your own wine, what wine do you like to drink at home? Anything goes. Grenache is a current favourite. Riesling gets a solid bashing. I probably tend to drink more white wine at home and the Champagne is always cold. What are your three top recommendations for a first-time visitor to the area? A summer day in the cellar doors, followed by a dip in the ocean at Pt. Willunga and fish and chips from the Star of Greece as the sun goes down. Early Saturday morning at the Willunga Farmers Market getting all your produce for a decadent feed. Visit tiny wine shop Fall from Grace in Aldinga for something quirky and meet up with the locals. What is your favourie? ​ Way to spend time off? Beachside/poolside somewhere warm with a book. Holiday destination? We are heading to South Africa for the first time, next year, so I am very excited about that. Our go to is Bali – surf, sun, food, easy as. Time of year? Spring Movie? I just binge-watched ‘The Handmaids Tale’ on SBS On Demand last weekend. So, so, so good. And disturbing. Restaurant? Pizza-teca or Salopian Inn. McLaren Vale has loads of choices, and it’s hard to go wrong! Sporting team? Adelaide Crows #weflyasone FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OLIVER'S TARANGA SMALL BATCH FIANO
Wine
Sydney Royal Wine Show in Review
We join Selector publisher and wine educator, Paul Diamond for a behind the scenes look at the recent 2017 KPMG Royal Sydney Wine Show and speak with some of the winning winemakers. In late July the Royal Agricultural Society released the results from the 2017 KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show . Among the judges this year was Selector Magazine publisher and wine educator, Paul Diamond, who lent a hand assessing the wines as an associate judge. “My role was to assess brackets of wines as part of the overall classes that they were entered into. To establish which wines were worthy of medals and establish a hierarchy of the quality presented," Paul explains. We recently caught up with Paul and some of our favourite medal-winning winemakers to give us an insight into the show. Here is what we learnt: Chardonnay is on the rise
For Paul, one of the highlights of the show was the high quality of 2016 Chardonnays he judged. “I have not come across a class with such a high level of consistent quality and expressive examples,” he said. “It’s a great time to be a Chardonnay lover.” The standard of Chardonnay at the show was evident with the Best Small Producer wine going to Clonal Brothers,  Flametree Wines taking out the Trophy for the Best Wine Judged by the International Guest Judge, and Tyrrell’s Vineyards winning the Trophy for Best NSW Wine for their 2012 Vat 47 Chardonnay . Tyrrell’s had an excellent Sydney Royal Wine Show, with their Stevens Vineyard Hunter Valley Semillon 2011 taking out Trophies for Best Semillon and Best Mature White. That takes the total tally of awards won by that wine to 15 Gold medals and two Trophies.  Australian Sauvignon Blanc is creating its own style Many of the judges noted that Australian Sauvignon Blanc is moving away from trying to replicate the herbaceous NZ style, with the best wines at the show focusing on citrus fruits with finesse and drive. Miles From Nowhere  continued their stellar performance with their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from Cowaramup securing two Trophies and a Gold. It can be tough being a wine show judge
While spending a day tasting and assessing wine may sound like heaven to many, it’s a gruelling process requiring a high level of focus and concentration.

“Some brackets can have upwards of 50 wines! You don’t want to miss anything or be unfair to a wine that someone has put their hard work, time and money into.”

- Paul Diamond, Associate Judge
Shiraz is still Australia’s most versatile wine As the country’s most widely planted variety, it was clear that despite vastly differing climates, Australian winemakers continue to adapt and create a variety of examples of Shiraz and Syrah that express their unique terroir. A swag of Gold medals were awarded to wines from across a broad range of regions throughout the country. One such example is the Gold medal-winning Berrigan Syrah 2015 from South Australia’s Limestone Coast sub regions of Mount Benson and Robe. For winemaker Dan Berrigan, this was great news.

“It’s like a huge pat on the back,” says Dan. “So much hard work goes into my wines, starting in the vineyard and continuing all the way to bottling. Great wine show results fill you with confidence that you’re on the right track and that you're not insane for taking a chance on a new and exciting wine region."

- Dan Berrigan, Berrigan Wines
Congratulations to some of our favourite winemakers
All in all it was great to see so many wines and winemakers that we know and love here at Wine Selectors achieve the recognition they deserve with Gold Medals awarded to  Miles From Nowhere , De Bortoli , Tyrrells, Evans & Tate , Tulloch , d’Arenberg , Best’s, Andrew Thomas, Devil’s Corner, Bleasdale, Berrigan Wines and many more. A relative newcomer to Wine Selectors, Shingleback Wines, had a great wine show picking up the Best Value Red Trophy for their 2016 Red Knot Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, plus three Golds. John Davey, the director of winemaking and viticulture at Shingleback, was thrilled, “Although we’re confident in the quality of our wines, and have achieved considerable acclaim over the years, the thrill of success at a wine show never diminishes and has an energising effect on the whole team,” he says. “I take great pride in my esteemed peers judging my children (my wines) worthy of merit.” To see the full results and all of the medal and Trophy winners visit the NSW RAS website.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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