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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.”

Sample Gold medal-winners from the 2017 KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show

We’ve put together an exclusive collection of Gold meda-winners from the 2017 KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show available in either a red, white or mixed dozen. All of these wines were awarded a minimum of 95 points out of 100, with including the Trophy-winning Tyrrell’s Stevens Vineyard Semillon 2011. And, every dozen comes with bonus tasting notes including suggested food matches! To find out more about the collection click here.

To see the full results and all of the medal and Trophy winners visit the NSW RAS website.

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Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
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Screw Cap vs Cork - the Seal of Approval
Words by Dave Mavor on 5 Jun 2017
Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor tells why a crack wins over a pop when it comes to opening wine. Screwcap closures were first used in the Australian wine industry in the 1970s, but consumers at the time perceived these wines to be of lower quality, and the initiative soon fizzled out. The screwcap comeback came in the 2000 vintage when a number of  ClareValley  winemakers bottled some of their  Rieslings  under screwcap to prevent cork-related faults. The most common of these is cork 'taint', caused by a compound known as TCA, which was often present in cork bark. Before the proliferation of screw cap closures in Australia, the level of wines ruined by cork taint was 12-15%. To put this in perspective, for every two dozen you purchased, it was accepted that there would be at least two bottles affected. This relatively high occurrence of cork taint was due largely to cork suppliers providing Australia with (compared to Europe) second rate corks with a higher incidence of taint producing bacteria. Due to the airtight nature of screwcaps, the problem of premature oxidation was also eliminated, along with the 'flavourscalping' tendency of the porous cork material, and other potential flavour modifications. Another advantage now widely recognised by consumers is the convenience factor - screwcapped bottles are easy to open and re-seal!   SCREWING WITH TIME One of the criticisms of screwcaps, apart from the ridiculous (in my view) notion of missing the 'romance' of the sound of popping a cork, was that the seal was so good that wines would not mature with time, due to the absence of oxygen. However, there is normally a miniscule amount of dissolved oxygen within the wine itself when it is bottled, which will allow the wine to evolve, and each bottle will age at roughly the same rate, while retaining its freshness and vitality for much longer. With wines under cork, the maturation process is not only much faster, but each bottle will age at a different rate due to the variable consistency and therefore oxygen permeability of the corks. A recent innovation in screwcap technology has seen the development of closures that allow strictly controlled rates of oxygen transmission, giving winemakers the choice of differing maturation rates for different wine styles. I have now had the opportunity to taste wines that have been aging gracefully under screwcap for up to 15 years, including the same wine bottled under both cork and screwcap. I've even had the privilege of tasting wines from those early adopters in the 70's, which at the time were still going strong.   INTERNATIONAL EYE-OPENER To reinforce my beliefs, award-winning Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer came up with some stunning results from a tasting at Italy's biggest wine show, Vinitaly, in March, 2015. Tyson presented five mature flagship Australian red wines under both cork and screwcap in a blind tasting. Some of Australia's most age-worthy and respected reds were presented, including the  Henschke  Hill of Grace Shiraz 2004. In a major surprise the panel of international wine professionals voted the screwcapped wines ahead of the corks. "The result was ground-breaking for Italy, where screwcaps remain controversial and until recently have been prohibited on the country's top wines," Tyson said. Even Venice sommelier Annie Martin-Stefannato admitted "we will have to change our mindset". So, given all the evidence for the superiority of screwcap closures, my personal preference will always be to hear a 'crack' rather than a 'pop' when I open a bottle of wine.      
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Henschke – Beyond the Hill
Words by Paul Diamond on 27 Sep 2017
Selector goes beyond the hill (of Grace) to discover a treasure  trove of stories in the vast and impressive range of a true icon in the Australian wine industry. The Henschke name holds a revered place in the vast mural that is the Australian wine landscape and for very good reason. Their Hill of Grace Shiraz has defined what is possible for an Australian single vineyard wine and is often considered our greatest. At $825 a bottle, Hill of Grace is now considered a wine ‘unicorn’ and the current 2012 vintage recently received Halliday’s prestigious Wine Of The Year award , further cementing its place as one of the world’s greats. The vineyard, planted by second generation Henschke, Paul Gotthard in the 1860s, is considered among our most precious wine assets. Of those who have been lucky enough to try Hill of Grace, few will doubt the acclaim it receives. But what about Henschke’s other wines? A total of 31 wines make up the Henschke portfolio and whilst Hill of Grace could easily dominate page space, the wines that tell the rest of the family story are equally deserving of your attention.  Selector recently visited the Henschke family at Keyneton in the Barossa’s Eden Valley for a special tasting with fifth generation winemaker Stephen and his daughter, Justine, to flesh out the Henschke story beyond its flagship. The Grape Garden of Eden
The Henschkes call the elevated hills and plains of Eden Valley, specifically Keyneton, home. “The name Eden Valley is just gorgeous, conjuring up many things, so whoever called this place Eden Valley really knew what they were talking about,” explains Stephen. “South Australia has the reputation for being the driest state on the driest continent on the planet, but there are parts of it, like the Mount Lofty Ranges, that have an amazing climate. “At about 500 metres, we have four distinct seasons; from wet winters and mild, sunny springs through to mild to hot summers and dry autumns. “Those seasons, and the day-night temperature differential during the ripening period is the critical parameter for the low PH/high acidity that creates natural balance in the fruit and the resultant quality and purity of the wine. “For Riesling, it keeps acidity and minerality and you get fine, pure examples. You’ve got Shiraz that is much more elegant, textural and spicy; red fruits, black fruits and lovely velvety tannins – all driven by the climate.” Liquid History              
The first bracket of Rieslings quickly reinforced Stephen’s point, showing how fine-boned Eden Valley Riesling can be. Julius is named in celebration of Stephen’s great uncle Albert Julius, who was a stonemason and well known for his sculpting and war memorial work in Adelaide and the Barossa.  All three wines tasted expressed a fine but generous backbone of lime juice-like acidity that carried with it layers of concentrated citrus, just-ripe stonefruits, minerals and spices through the length of each wine. The 2002 Julius, with 15 years under its belt, expressed the ability for these wines to age gracefully and was still showing youthful floral aromatics, fleshy primary and secondary fruit flavours and a fresh, clean mouthfeel.  The consensus was that whilst mouth-watering, the 2016 was still in its infancy and needed time to show its true colours. The 2002 Julius was Stephen’s pick and he loved the amazing spicy, floral mix of the aromatics. Wine Selectors’ Head of Product Matt White had similar thoughts and remarked on the wine’s youth and poise. A bracket of exotic Gewürztraminers followed, again reinforcing how much of an impact the Eden’s warm days and cool nights have on coaxing fine and delicate flavours out of the aromatic grape varieties. Named after Joseph Hill Thyer, who planted the first vines on the family’s Eden Valley property, these wines are an expressive nod to the great European Gewürztraminers of Alsace. Heady aromas of musk, Turkish delight, lychee, rosewater and delicate blossoms are all things that you could see in all of the wines shown. In the mouth, tight and complex citrus flavour lines made way for fleshy red and green apples followed by a fine, clean finish. Justine was a fan of the 2016, believing that it had great potential to age, whilst my pick was the 2010 for its complexity, texture and classic European style. Next in the glass was a line-up of Louis Semillons, named after Louis Edmund Henschke, who managed the Hill of Grace Vineyard for four decades. Louis ran the vineyard organically and Stephen’s wife Prue, the Henschke viticulturist, has continued this philosophy, including biodynamics for soil and vine health. Once considered wacky, biondyamics is now recognised as best practice. Prue is a true leader in the field and much of the modern success and sustainability of the Henschke name needs to be attributed to her influence. The Louis wines are classic varietal examples of Semillon displaying lemon, lemon peel and citrus aromatics and flavours of lanolin, apples, and spice on the palate. The wines were stylistically unique, showing lots of open, fleshy complexity as young and older wines. The 2014 Louis and even the 2010, while still being fresh and youthful, were exhibiting loads of juicy, fleshy fruits that maintained all the way from start to finish. Matt loved the 2014 for its youth and purity, Justine the 2003 for its gracefully aged elements and creamy fruit and Stephen believed the 2014 to be a ‘complete’ wine with appealing complexity and structure. Heavenly
A collection of Abbotts Prayer wines came next and served as a neat segue into exploring another important regional chapter in the Henschke story – the Adelaide Hills. Stephen and Prue purchased an orchard at Lenswood in 1981 to plant cool climate varieties. The devastating Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 wiped out the orchard and Prue and Stephen then established vineyards. Abbotts Prayer is a single vineyard, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend first produced in 1989 in acknowledgement of the region’s religious and cultural history. The wines are an elegant expression of cool climate intensity, but delivered with composure and finesse. The 1996 example gloriously demonstrated the ability to age beautifully by displaying surprising youth for a 21-year-old. The wines were sweet and spicy, delivering fine, orderly layers of blackberry, blueberry, mulberries and plums, the mouthfeel velveteen and the finish long. Whilst the 1996 was a favourite for its age, the 2012 was the standout for everyone involved. Stephen loved its elegance and power, Matt loved the complexity and Justine favoured its youthful balance and power. A fitting finale
Lastly we tasted Euphonium, dedicated to the Henschke Family Brass Band that was a favourite pastime of the early German-Silesian settlers in the Barossa from the 1840s. Keyneton Euphonium (formerly Keyneton Estate) is a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend with each year delivering varying percentages. The wine is intense, rich and complex, displaying classic old world Hermitage characteristics: star anise, pepper, tar, dark berry, cigar box and sweet cassis aromas that make way to a concentrated but smooth palate of fleshy blackberries, mulberries and silky soft tannins. We all loved the 2002 Euphonium for its aged elegance, Justine favoured the 2009 for its savoury fruit construction, while Stephen loved the 2013 for its fruit-driven palate and fresh balance. Family Reflections It’s gratifying to know that each Henschke wine contains a part of their family story and each year they celebrate their history by turning soil, grape and sunlight into something delicious that can be shared and cherished. It’s even more gratifying that the wines are as great as the stories. Stephen fittingly and simply put the Henschke mantra into perspective. “Our whole philosophy is about being better not bigger. It’s about the quality, our amazing resources of old vineyards and making the most of our beautiful fruit and turning it into something really special.” Long may the stories continue. The Wines of the Tasting Henschke Julius Riesling 2016 A pure Eden Valley Riesling with power and finesse. Fresh and delicate lime blossom and kaffir lime aromatics lead to a mouth-watering palate of minerals, green apples and limes. A definite keeper. Henschke Keyneton Euphonium cabernet Blend 2013 An attractive, regal wine with complex aromatics of spice, plums, mulberries and blackberries. The palate is fine yet powerful with velvety, spicy layers of plums, blackberries and mocha. Henschke Louis Semillon 2014 A complex, well-structured Semillon with good cellaring potential. Fleshy, open aromatics of fresh and baked apples, preserved lemons and marzipan with a palate full of sugar snap peas, lemons and lime juice.    
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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