Small makers flock to Winewise awards

As the National and Melbourne wine shows bend over backwards to attract small makers to their competitions, Canberra based Winewise herds them in by the flock. This year’s Winewise Small Vignerons awards, judged at the racecourse in early July, attracted over 1,500 entries from 394 wineries.

To qualify for the event wineries must crush, for their own label, 250 tonnes or less of grapes – equivalent to about 18,000 dozen bottles. By that standard 1,959 of Australia’s 2,420 vignerons qualify. However, if you knock out the small-scale hobbyists and others not interested in wine shows, the target market might be 1,000 producers. Attracting 40 per cent of these into one show seems an extraordinary achievement. It certainly gives a good snapshot of small regional producers and highlights some pretty exciting wines.

Like any show, though, there are gaps in the ranks as many of Australia’s best small regional producers – for example, Canberra’s Clonakilla and Clare Valley’s Jeffrey Grosset Wines – simply don’t enter wines in shows. They need neither the medals nor the judges’ feedback. But that still leaves plenty of top-notch producers to fill the ranks.

The results are a good form guide for drinkers, especially if we’re looking for up and coming producers that haven’t been on our radar in the past. Look, for example, at the trophy winning riesling, Lock and Key 2010. Never heard of it? Well, it’s from Jason and Alecia Brown’s Moppity Vineyard at Young, in the Hilltops Region.

It retails for around $12–$15 a bottle and Jason Brown says he has buckets of it. I’ve not tried the wine yet, but judges won’t have made a mistake. And they gave a silver medal to another Hilltops riesling, Chalkers Crossing 2009 – an excellent $18 wine, reviewed below on 18 July.

A highlight of this year’s results were the awards showered on Canberra producers across a range of varieties. Shiraz again showed its class as our signature variety. Len Sorbello, one of the judges and organisers of the event commented “the Canberra district shiraz class was the strongest in the whole of the awards”. Who can argue when you look at the honours list.

Canberra’s winemakers entered 21 shirazes in the event and hauled in 17 medals – three golds, four silvers and 10 bronzes.

Nick O’Leary won two of the three golds for his 2008 and 2009 vintages. The third gold went to Bryan Martin’s Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2009. The judges were so impressed by the two 2009 shirazes that both progressed to the trophy taste-off for best shiraz of the show.

Nick O’Leary Shiraz 2009 won the trophy. It’s a beautiful, supple and savoury medium bodied red sourced from the Fischer and Kyeema McKenzie vineyards, Murrumbateman. Like Martin’s equally delicious wine, it contains a small amount of the white viognier, co-fermented with the shiraz.

Canberra’s silver medal winning shirazes were: Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier 2009, Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2009, Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Shiraz 2008 and Gundog Estate Shiraz 2009. Bronze medals went to Gundog Estate 2008, Lambert 2008, Lerida 2008, Brindabella Hills Reserve 2008, McKellar Ridge 2008, Mount Majura 2008, Brindabella Hills 2008, Shaw Vineyard Estate Winemakers Selection, Quarry Hill 2005 and Postcode 2582 2008.

Shiraz, overall, fared well. Moppity Hilltops Reserve 2009 won gold and progressed to the trophy taste off and its cellar mate, the $12–$15 Lock and Key Hilltops Shiraz 2009, also won gold.

The other gold medal shirazes covered most of Australia: Box Stallion Mornington Peninsula 2009, Paringa Estate Mornington Peninsula 2008, Sanguine Estate Heathcote 2007, Balgownie Black Label Bendigo 2008, Balgownie Estate Bendigo 2007, Montara Grampians 2008, Black Poppy Pyrenees 2008, Mantra Margaret River 2008, Were Estate Margaret River 2009, Duke’s Mount Barker 2007, Capercaille Ghillie Hunter Valley 2007, Ridgeview Generations Reserve Hunter Valley 2006, Meerea Park Hell Hole Hunter Valley 2007. The Barossa and McLaren Vale missed out altogether, perhaps reflecting the difficult 2008 vintage, or even the new orthodoxy among judges to favour cool-climate styles.

Canberra’s other gold medallists were Mount Majura Tempranillo Shiraz Graciano 2009 and Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

The other trophy winners offer a diverse snapshot of Australian regional winemaking:

Best chardonnay – Oakridge Lieu-dit Mackay Vineyard Yarra Valley 2009

Best other white – Ross Hill Orange Pinot Gris 2009

Best semillon – Coolangatta Estate Nowra 2006

Best sauvignon blanc – Abbey Creek Porongurup 2009

Best barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc – Oakridge Yarra Valley Fumé Limited Release 2009

Best sweet white – Robert Stein Mudgee Half Dry Riesling RS18

Best sparkling – Brandy Creek Gippsland Menage-a-Trois Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier

Best cabernet sauvignon – Moss Brothers Margaret River 2007

Best Pinot Noir – Paringa Estate “The Paringa” Mornington Peninsula 2008

Best red blend – Sandhurst Ridge Bendigo Fringe Shiraz Cabernet 2008

Best other red variety – Terra Felix Victoria Mourvedre 2009

Best fortified – Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Grand Muscat

You can see the full results at and the reviews of all the gold and silver medallists will appear in the August edition of the by-subscription “Winewise” magazine. I’ll also review some of the wines as they become available, starting with Nick O’Leary’s trophy winning shiraz reviewed below today.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010