Canberra regional wine show 2012

In this year’s regional wine show, judged in September, riesling and shiraz once again dominated the medal strike rate, barring a couple of oddities – for example, in class 22 the lone chardonnay won a medal, giving the variety a 100 per cent strike rate.

Reduced numbers of entries overall probably reflects smaller production resulting from disease in the 2011 and 2012 vintages – a problem that affected not just the show’s catchment area, but most of eastern Australia.

However, disease may not be the only factor behind the reduced numbers.  In the important current vintage riesling class, for example, entries were down from 20 last year to 14.

However, the 14 fared well as the judges awarded nine medals (three gold, two silver, four bronze) – a strike rate of 64 per cent, significantly up on 2011’s 50 per cent. This tends to confirm post-vintage excitement about 2012 riesling among some makers, notably the district’s riesling champion, Ken Helm.

Helm would no doubt be disappointed that his Premium Riesling 2012 failed to win a medal – probably dismissed by the judges and included in their general comment, “The lack of generosity, the greenness and high levels of acidity in the non-awarded wines was an issue”.

But there’s more to it than that as Canberra rieslings in general do appear acidic and lacking in generosity so close to vintage. It’s a recurring theme and probably good reason to hold the show a few months later, especially considering riesling’s importance to Canberra.

If the wines really are green, no amount of time will ever change them. But austerity and acidity can simply mask varietal flavour that emerges over time. Helm Classic Dry Riesling 2011 is a perfect example. It missed out on a medal in last year’s show, but won gold this year.

That so many 2012 rieslings succeeded at this stage of their development points to some very good drinking ahead. Clonakilla 2012 pipped the other two gold medallists, Centennial Reserve 924 2012 and Four Winds 2012, for the top spot. But the two silver medallists, Gallagher and Lake George, and four bronze winners, Nick O’Leary 2012, Mount Majura 2012, Helm Classic Dry 2012 and Ravensworth 2012, are wines to watch in the months ahead.

But riesling the judges really took to came from Halfmoon Wine, near Braidwood. In an interview some time ago winemaker Alex McKay, in his own quiet way, said these guys grow good riesling.

McKay made the Halfmoon 2010 vintage that topped its class, just ahead of the other gold medallist, Helm Classic Dry 2011.  McKay also made the silver medal winning 2011. Now there’s one to watch.

Halfmoon 2010 subsequently blitzed the trophy taste offs as best riesling, best dry white and champion wine of the show – maintaining a shiraz-riesling’ duopoly on the top spot, in place since 1998. Riesling last won the champion’s trophy jointly with a shiraz in 2009.

Surprisingly, with 13 entries the 2011 shiraz class was only marginally down on the 16 entered in the corresponding 2010 class last year. Equally surprisingly, the medal count held up – 69 per cent strike rate for the 2011s versus 75 per cent for the 2010s.

Noting the comparative elegance and spiciness of the wines, the judges awarded golds to Eden Road Canberra Shiraz (top wine of the class), Nick O’Leary Canberra Shiraz and Mount Majura Canberra Shiraz. Grove Estate Cellar Block Hilltops Shiraz Viognier and Clonakilla O’Riada Canberra Shiraz earned silver medals.

And in class 23 for 2006 and older reds, Alex McKay’s Collector Reserve Shiraz earned gold.

Pinot noir performed poorly, winning only three bronze and one silver medal from 12 entries. Notably, Tertini wines from the Southern Highland won the three bronze medals in the 2010 and older class and its neighbour, Centennial earned silver for its 2011.

Cabernet sauvignon, too, put in a mediocre performance overall with ten medals from 25 entries. The sole gold medallist went to the Hilltops region, continuing that district’s dominance of the variety in the regional show. The wine, Hungerford Hill Hh Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon also won the cabernet trophy. Pankhurst Dorothy May 2010 performed well, earning a silver medal.

Tumbarumba, Canberra’s elevated, cooler, southerly neighbour, dominated the chardonnay classes, winning all of the silver medals and both golds in class 11 for wines from 2011 and earlier vintages. Barwang Estate Tumbarumba 842 Chardonnay 2010 topped the class. And demonstrating the wine’s staying ability, the 2006 vintage won gold in the museum class. McWilliams owns Barwang.

Among the so-called “other” white varieties and blends, the gold medallists were: Lerida Estate Pinot Grigio 2012, Clonakilla Viognier 2011 and Coolangatta Estate 2005 semillon.

The “other” red gold medallists were: Capital Wines The Ambassador Tempranillo 2011 and Mount Majura Graciano.

This is just a summary of key varieties and doesn’t include sparkling or sweet wines. For the full results visit

My spreadsheets summarise the 2011 and 2012 medal strike rates for the main dry table wine styles.

Canberra Regional Wine Show 2012
How the varieties fared (dry wines only)
Class 1, 201214324964
Class 5, 2011 and older9223778
Sauvignon blanc and blends
Class 2, 20125102360
Class 6, 2011 and older500000
Class 3, 201220112100
Class 7, 2011 and older212471350
Class 22, 2006 and older (museum)11001100
Pinot gris/grigio
Class 4,  other varieties 20124101250
Class 8, other varieties 2011 and older4011125
Class 4, other varieties 2012100000
Class 8, other varieties 2011 and older62134100
Class 13, 201113324969
Class 14, 2010 and older22441941
Class 23, 2006 and older (museum)11001100
Pinot noir
Class 11, 20115011240
Class 12, 2010 and older7003343
Class 23, 2006 and older (museum)000000
Cabernet sauvignon and blends
Class 15, 20112001133
Class 16, 2010 and older21116838
Class 23, 2006 and older (museum)2010150
Merlot and blends
Class 17, 2011 other varieties100000
Class 18, 2009 and older other varieties100000
Class 223, 2006 and older (museum)000000
Canberra Regional Wine Show 2011
How the varieties fared (dry wines only)
Class 1, 2011202351050
Class 5, 2010 and older13234969
Sauvignon blanc and blends
Class 2, 20118011225
Class 6, 2010 and older200000
Class 3, 2011100000
Class 7, 2010 and older16413850
Class 22, 2006 and older (museum)11001100
Pinot gris/grigio
Class 4,  other varieties 20117111343
Class 8, other varieties 2010 and older5001120
Class 4, other varieties 201110011100
Class 8, other varieties 2010 and older41034100
Class 13, 2010163271275
Class 14, 2009 and older284391657
Class 23, 2006 and older (museum)3101267
Pinot noir
Class 11, 20107020229
Class 12, 2009 and older11011218
Class 23, 2006 and older (museum)100000
Cabernet sauvignon and blends
Class 15, 20106011233
Class 16, 2009 and older21113524
Class 17, other varieties 2010100000
Merlot and blends
Class 17, 2010 other varieties5002240
Class 18, 2009 and older other varieties6101233
Class 223, 2006 and older (museum)100000