For many small winemakers Canberra’s Winewise Small Vignerons Awards is the most important Australian wine show, overshadowing the usually prestigious and larger – but to them irrelevant – Sydney, Adelaide and National Wine Shows.
So how did this little home grown show assume such importance?
What began for Lester Jesberg (then a tax office official) and others as a hobby in the sixties and seventies became a small business in 1985 with the establishment of ‘Winewise’ magazine – a by-subscription, no advertising publication providing impartial wine reviews.
Twenty-one years later ‘Winewise’ remains a niche publication highly respected within the wine industry and by Australia’s keenest wine enthusiasts.
Each year Lester and his team taste thousands of wines and review each fearlessly, under ‘outstanding’, ‘highly recommended’, ‘recommended’, ‘agreeable’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ categories.
The disciplined, masked tasting approach sustained over two decades gives the results a high degree of credibility across a vast range of Australian and imported wine.
Somewhere along the line this led to the creation of the Winewise Small Vignerons Awards – a forum for small makers not well serviced by the larger wine shows.
Like the magazine, the Small Vignerons Awards developed high credibility and this year attracted a reported 1350 wines from 450 exhibitors.
And because it’s such a well-run event appealing to key small producers, it also attracts high quality judges to complement Winewise’s own panellists – Lester Jesberg, Phil Trickett, Andrew McEwin and Len Sorbello.
Several features lift the SVA above so many other shows: outstanding judges; small classes, often broken into regional groupings so that like is judged with like; comparatively low numbers of wines to be tasted per judge per day; the use of good quality glassware; and serving wine at a consistent, moderate temperature.
While the results of any show is just an expression of opinion, good outcomes are more likely where judges are not fatigued, where there’s time to carefully re-assess all gold medal candidates and where only outstanding wines move forward for the trophy taste offs.
What you can be sure of with the SVA is that the trophy winners are excellent wines. What you cannot be sure of is that they are necessarily the styles that each and every person likes.
For that fact is that everyone is genetically programmed and otherwise conditioned to perceive smells and tastes differently. With that caveat there’s a feast of good drinking in this year’s hard-won trophy line up below.
Best riesling: Delatite Alpine Valleys Victoria 2005. Contact www.delatitewinery.com.au. Phone 03 5775 2922.
Best semillon: Saddler’s Creek Hunter Valley Classic 1999. Contact www.saddlerscreekwines.com.au. Phone 02 4991 1770.
Best dry white blend: Lenton Brae Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2005. Contact www.lentonbrae.com. Phone 08 9755 6255
Best pinot noir: Paringa Estate Mornington Peninsula 2004. Contact, www.paringaestate.com.au. Phone 03 5989 2669.
Best shiraz: Paringa Estate Mornington Peninsula 2004. Contact: www.paringaestate.com.au. Phone 03 5989 2669.
Best cabernet sauvignon: Koppamurra Limestone Coast 2002. Contact: www.koppamurra.com. Phone 08 8357 9533.
Best other varietal red: Burge Family Barossa Valley Garnacha 2003. Contact: Phone 08 8524 4644.
Best dry red blend: Windance Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2004. Contact: www.windance.com.au. Phone 08 9755 2293.
Best fortified wine: Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Grand Muscat. Contact www.stantonandkilleenwines.com.au. Phone 02 6032 9457.
Best exhibitor: Capercaillie Wines Hunter Valley for achieving greatest total score for three wines entered in three different classes. Contact: www.capercailliewine.com.au. Phone 02 4990 2904.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2006 & 2007