Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hunter Valley Wine Show

The full results of the trophies awarded at the Hunter Valley Wine Show have been posted on the website.

Two awards which might slip through the net were the Iain Riggs Wines of Provenance Awards for both white and red wines. The idea comes from the Adelaide Wine Show, which pioneered the concept some years ago. To enter, a winery has to provide three wines, the youngest commercially available for sale, plus two wines respectively not less than five and 10 years old. The wines are judged as triplets, although individual assessment of each wine will of course be part of the ultimate decision by each judge, at which point the normal discussion takes place until a full consensus is reached.

It is tempting to say that from this point on it was business as usual.  But the not-always-easy-to-please Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW said ‘Having judged a number of Australian wine shows by now, I have to say that in my experience the Hunter Valley Wine Show 2012 ranks amongst the best organised and judged. But a show can’t be great without great wines, so I’d like to particularly thank the Hunter producers for making some very impressive wines in recent years. The unique styles of Shirazes, Semillons and Chardonnays have especially been a pleasure to judge, and believe me I don’t say that at every show. The best wines demonstrated purity, perfume and elegance as only the Hunter Valley can achieve.’

There were 20 trophies, and all but two (Vintage Fortified Wine and Best Chardonnay) all went to Semillon or Shiraz.  The arrival of screwcap will see ever more trophies going to aged semillons, which start hitting their straps when five years old, but which will go for much longer. Just how long we still don’t know,  but it easily could be well over 20 years.

What is not understood by consumers who don’t live in Sydney is the elegance and perfume of Hunter Valley shiraz. The quality of these wines has improved enormously over the past 10 to 15 years, as winemakers have got rid of brettanomyces and sulphide derivatives, moved to the judicious use of French oak, and have thought carefully about the potential alcohol in the wines.

Just as semillon in the Hunter achieves phenological ripeness around 10 to 10.5 baume, resulting in the majority of wines having an alcohol content of between 10% and 11.5% (with more in the former than the latter level), so does shiraz reach phenological ripeness in most years plus/minus 12  baume, with resultant alcohol levels of between 12.5% and 13.5%.  They have a freshness which is totally enjoyable when the wines are young, but progressively gain complexity over the next decade.  That said, De Iuliis Wines won the Trophy for Best Dry Red of Show with its 2011 Steven Vineyard Shiraz, underlining the ability of young shiraz to outpoint its far older siblings.  Mike De Iuliis is one of the many graduates from the Len Evans Tutorial, and while it would be drawing a long bow to suggest that this was the reason for his achievement, he certainly has an international perspective on quality.

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