Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Highlights of the NSW Wine Awards

The New South Wales Wine Awards - Its the equivalent of the NSW state championships of wine. The emphasis is mainly on boutique wines, but it serves to highlight a few highlights from all across the state. The wines are all showcased in a comprehensive tasting that includes a heap of wineries that want to didn't win awards - Good form. Being NSW, the emphasis is on a few old favourites (eg Hunter Semillon & Shiraz, Riverina stickies etc) but there was sufficient diversity to keep everything interesting.

Sadly it was a miserable October day in Sydney (apparently our coldest October day in 30 yrs - the heater went on for the first time in ages) and the turnout from the trade was crap. Good for me (plenty of winemakers with time to chat) but bad for time poor producers. The format was to show the 'Top 40' wines of the show, as well as an assortment of other wines from all over the state. I really concentrated on Riesling, Shiraz & Semillon, but with so little time and so much great piss, there where many highlights I missed. I didnt even try the NSW Wine of the Year!

Brokenwood Oakey Creek Hunter Valley Semillon 2004
A single vineyard Hunter Semillon that closley mirrors Brokenwood's icon ILR Semillon - they both share this straw bale aroma & green apple palate. Sadly, like a few other 04 Hunter whites, this seems forward, soft and quite simple. Could just be a stage - it needs time whatever the circumstance. 16.5

Riverina Bortytis roundup
Tasted at the end of the tasting and my teeth strongly disliked the sweet barrage - I was actually trying to taste only on the left side of my mouth (Highly entertaining; I actually had my head tilted to one side). I don't think I did them justice.

De Bortoli Noble One Semillon 2006
Lillypilly Noble Blend 2002
Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon 2006
Piromit Botrytis Semillon 2006
Westend 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis Semillon 2005


All of the wines where dripping with global accolades, though I have to say that the super power and richness of this style is not my preference. More acidity please.

Of the wines, the De Bortoli appeared the leanest, with an oak driven vanillan richness and firm structure: Leave it in the cellar. The Lillypilly was drinking at its peak, with more developed honey marmalade characters that where very appealing, but perhaps OTT. The Cookathama was lighter but also very well balanced, with less of the overt richness that marks many of these wines - Definitely the pick for value vs quality. The Piromit had a burnt, caramel (oak?)character that I found distracting. Finally the 3 bridges was almost impossibly rich - too rich for me. I'll take a Cookathama for now and a Noble One for later.

De Iuliis Show Reserve Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007
Very traditional Hunter - Sawdust, leather & spice on the nose, dry tannins, full on oak, very savoury. Will be very long lived but a little unwieldy at present. 16.5++

De Iuliis Limited Release Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007
Very new world Hunter! Bright red fruit aromatics & a lovely interplay between fruit and oak on the palate. Velvety mouthfeel & lovely integrated fine Hunter tannins. High quality from start to finish and reminded me of the superb Meerea Park reds.18.7

Grove Estate Cellar Block Reserve Hilltops Shiraz Viognier 2006
Crafted by the talented Tim Kirk at Clonakilla (apparently Grove Estate are one of the sources for Tim's Hilltops Shiraz) this was a lovely, floral, medium bodied Shiraz Viognier that was just a little too Apricotty & Viognier dominant. Undoubtedly delicious though I can't see the value at $36 a bottle - just a bit too one dimensional for that. 16.5

Grove Estate Cellar Block Reserve Hilltops Shiraz Viognier 2007
Apparently 07 was a hot one in the Hilltops and this wine shared some of the hardness that dominates the 07 Clonakilla Hilltops at present. Underneath however, I think there is a very fine wine, it just needs a good 5 yrs to come together. Interestingly this showed almost no Viognier influence. 16.0++

Helm Classic Riesling 2008
Classic in name, classic in nature. Showcasing the great 2008 Canberra District white vintage, this is a lovely young Riesling. With an unusual hay & grass nose, the palate is long, limey & grapefruity with fresh, almost tropical fruit and great length. Pristine and delicious. 18

Helm Premium Riesling 2008
A single vineyard Riesling, compared to a blend of five vineyards for the Classic. Interestingly, both Rieslings have scored awards and accolades recently, with the two wines regularly swapping the leaders jersey between them. I like them both, but IMHO this is the winner - its so perfectly formed, with a rush of grapefruit, lime and intense guava fruit that finishes with the phenolic grip of the finest dry Rieslings. Sensational stuff. 19

Helm Half Dry Riesling 2008
Ken Helm apparently makes this to satisfy his daughters wishes. A halbtrocken style, though with 14g r/s and 7g acidity it tastes far from sweet. A lovely summer drink that's low in alcohol and extremely refreshing. Not half as serious or defined as the 'dry' Rieslings, but very drinkable. 17

Krinklewood Hunter Valley Semillon 2008
Delicious, aromatic young Semillon -with a herbaceous, Savvy like nose & a palate that is crisp and perfectly delineated. 18

Krinklewood Hunter Valley Rose 2008
Perhaps the only biodynamic Mourvedre Rose in the world. Dry, savoury and (just) red fruited, its more like a pink coloured white wine than a Rose. Very drinkable nonetheless. 16.8


Krinklewood Hunter Valley Shiraz 2006
Showing the typicity of the mid weight 2006 Hunter vintage, this has quite high acidity - making it slightly prickly but also savoury, dry and food friendly. With a few yrs under its belt, this may prove to be an enjoyable, traditional Hunter 'Burgundy'. 17

Lark Hill
One of only a handful of certified Biodynamic producers in Australia. The Carpenters, when you get them on a good day, are also very interesting people whose views lie happily far from the mainstream.

Lark Hill Biodynamic Canberra District Riesling 2008
A much more feminine and elegant Riesling compared to the open and limey styles showed by many others, this tended towards the tight, citrus and green apple end of the Riesling spectrum. Floral and a little subdued, this will need more time to come out of its shell. 17.6+

Lark Hill Biodynamic Canberra District Chardonnay 2006
Similarly elegant and pure, this is a lemony and quite delicate style of Chardonnay that is made with full wild yeast and extended lees contact. It is an interesting, slightly wild (if you can call such an elegant wine 'wild') Chardonnay that really needs food to shine. 17.0

Lark Hill Biodynamic Pinot Noir 2006
Again a gentle style, I was less enamoured with this than I have been on previous occasions, today it seemed a little dry, tomato leafy and metallic for my liking. Still clean and pure, but not really my style of Pinot. 15.8

Lerida Estate Lake George Shiraz Viognier 2006
Its quite an interesting Shiraz Viognier with a meaty, peppery and savoury Rhonish (such a crap, overused term that - Rhonish could mean just about anything. I vow to stop using it from now on) style. But I do feel that this was a little baked - just a little overripe. Still a nice drink though. The $56 asking price is very steep, even if it is covered in shiny medals and trophies. 17

Tulloch Hunter River White 2008
With the family back controlling this classic Hunter Estate, the wine range has gone all welcomely revivalist. This white is the sister of the Pokolbin Dry Red & is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon & Verdelho. I really like the concept - I'd prefer more Semillon, but this field blend is rather tasty. Textural Chardonnay, super dry Semillon, punchy Verdelho - Its an attractive and very Hunter combo. Good stuff. 16.8

Tyrrells Stevens Semillon 2004
Soft, forward and grassy. The texture is all in the right place, but it lacks the acid backbone of the better vintages. An attractively textural early drinker. 17.1

Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2002
Welcome back. A classic Tyrrells Sem. Firm acid, well developed mouthfeel, stil pristine and fresh. Right on song. 18.6

Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2006
Very vat 47. Clean, crisp, primary golden fruit and good acid. No Malo just reinforces the purity.It needs some time to show its best, but its a good example of the dry, lean and pristine Hunter Chardonnay style. It always amazes me how these high acid, super fresh styles can come out of such a stinking humid place (The hunter in summer time that is). 17.3+

Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz 2005
If you dig Hunter Shiraz then this should be right up your alley. Dirt, new leather, dark chocolate, plum jam, roast meat, the whole deal. Medium bodied with noticeable acidity. Wants to be in your cellar right now. 18

Warraroong Estate Claremont Sparkling 2002
This was actually made by talented Hunter maestro Andrew Thomas (who is always an excellent man to chat with - no bullshit there). He reckons that the main reason this won was that it had spent so long on lees (3 or 4 yrs apparently) that it had developed into something very interesting. Spot on. This has a nose that talks Semillon (green apples - but this is a Chardonnay based bubbly?) meeting yeasty bread. Its like fresh apple pie & custard laced with yeasty overtones. The voice in my head tells me it might have won the Best Sparkling trophy on the strength of its peculiarity - It would definitely stick out. Not for me (especially not at the $55 asking price). 15.0