Canberra’s regional wine show 2008

Canberra’s regional wine show, judged on Monday and Tuesday this week, attracted a record 254 entries from 46 producers in Canberra and surrounding regions, including Hilltops (Young), Tumbarumba, Southern Highlands, Gundagai and the south coast.

It’s an extraordinarily varied catchment for grape growing – and hence wine flavours – with vineyards spread over a significant range of latitudes (Mittagong in the north to Gundagai in the south) and, perhaps more importantly, from altitudes of near sea level at warm Nowra, to around 900 metres at chilly Tumbarumba.

That geographic spread also means a wide range of soils, aspects and, of course, the all important wide diurnal temperature ranges and low humidity of inland sites, versus the more humid, small temperature range of coastal sites.

This all contributes to the diversity of wine styles in our local show. And, in general, our judging scores correlate closely with the theory of what varieties ought to work in the various locations – albeit with a few surprises now and then.

The show delivers different benefits to drinkers, producers and the industry as a whole. For a producer there’s the chance of glory, as nothing grabs attention like a gold medal or trophy. But the show also provides a benchmarking opportunity, both in the judges’ scores and at the exhibitors’ tasting held after the judging.

In these small regional shows the benchmarking tends to be more intense than it would be in a show open to all comers. For example, our region’s fine-boned shirazes don’t run the risk of being ‘shaded’ by burlier styles from warmer regions like the Barossa or McLaren Vale.

It’s harder work judging a more homogenous group of wines. But ultimately the judges reward a range of subtly different wines.

For the industry, the overall results, over time, reveal the strengths of the various parts of the region. This, in turn, can make the show a springboard for regional marketing. As chair of judges, Brian Croser, said last year the show has the ability to ‘inform and inspire the way a region manifests itself – to identify its strengths and how to tell the world’.

For drinkers there are immediate as well as long-term benefits. In the long run, wine shows tend to lift overall quality. Regional shows, in particular, highlight technical faults that can be, and usually are, eliminated with a bit of attention.

The catalogue of results, of course, provides a terrific guide to quality across the district – with the caveat that not every winery exhibits.

Attend the public tasting that follows the judging and you can cover as much ground in one night as you could in weeks of cellar door visits. The trick is to grab a catalogue as soon as you arrive, identify the styles you’re interested in, then hit the tasting tables.

Naturally there’s a rush on the trophy winners. But remember that there’s a fine line between trophy winners and gold medallists, and often between silver and gold winners. Bronze medallists, too, are way above average wines.

The public tasting is on tonight from 5pm–7pm at the Terrace Restaurant, Exhibition Park, Watson. You need to buy tickets in advance. Cost, including a tasting glass, is $15 (or $12 for RNCAS or Wine Selector members). Phone 6241 2478 or visit for details. The website also has a PDF of this year’s show results.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008