Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Sydney International Wine Competition 2009 - The Whites

I rather like the premise of the Sydney International Wine Competition, especially the 'tasting with food' premise that underlies the blue gold section of the awards. I also applaud the decidedly international flavour of the judges, giving a different perspective than seen in the typical Australian wine show.

The net outcome of this more unique take on the wine show format is the results can be quite eclectic. Thankfully I like eclectic, and there was plenty to like here - a high standard indeed.

For the complete results, go here.

The notes here are raw and largely as written in my trusty Spirax notebook. I have broken them down into Sparkling, Whites & Dessert wines to start, the rest to follow in a further post.

Category 1 Sparkling Wines

Besserat De Bellefon CDM Blanc De Blancs NV
Obviously creamy Blanc de Blanc style, big palate is just a little tinny. Good intensity & some complexity. Good. 17.3

Besserat De Bellefon CDM Brut NV
Shy, slightly muted cheesy nose. Cheesy palate with sour fruit. Not quite. A little sour and unenjoyable. 16

Charles Heidsieck Brut NV (2008 disgorgement)
Dense nose, nice yeast development, lovely richness to the palate. Really nice. Still one of my favourite NV's. 17.9

Giesler Brut NV
Nice full yeasty nose - worked & full. Creamy palate. Palate is generous but a little heavy on the dosage for top marks. 16.9

Category 2 Aromatic Whites

Bay of Fires Riesling 2008
Tight, green apple & lemon nose, tight & quite lean palate that is all citrus & acidity, Needs time - gives little away at present, but potential plus. 17++

Haymaker Waipara Riesling 2008
Fat & quite limey almost Clare like nose, lilt of tropical sweetness on one dimensional, pure palate. Light & thin but crisp. 16.2

Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2008
Intense nose is pure Eden (plenty of Eden fruit in here I'll wager). Palate starts tight, getting bigger and more intense as it builds. Another winning Jacobs Creek wine. Buy some. 18

Kilikanoon Morts Block Watervale Riesling 2008
Genuine Watervale lime juice nose - yum. Much more backwards than most Clare 08's. Palate is chalky & dry with dense, limey power just below the surface. Really good, though lacking the intensity for higher marks. 17.0

Palandri Frankland River Riesling 2006
Won a trophy here, though did nothing for me: Big, fat, obvious toasty developed style. Quite soft palate is all toast. I like toast. But wine should be more than just toast. One dimensional & ordinary. 15.1

Schild Estate Frontignac 2008
Big, honeyed, floral Fronti nose, big, rich sickly sweet palate has prickly honey fruit and a big hole through the middle. Awkward, unbalanced. No. 14

Trevor Jones 'Boots' Eden Valley Riesling 2008
Tight, typically 08 Eden tight - love em. Palate matches this with good intensity, if just a little chunky. Excellent acidity. One of those wines where you think about it 2 minutes later and realise 'Hey, that was really good.' 17.2

Category 3 Sauvignon Blanc
I was really impressed here - many good quality 'reserve' wines showing the expected intensity and style.

Huntaway Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Trophy Winner. Nicely intense nose in the capsicum and gooseberry, leaner realm of Marlborough Sauv. Slightly sour, tinny, developing palate. Disappointing. 16.0

Hunter's Khao Roa Oak Aged Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Oaked herbs. Dill. Lovely interplay here between herbs and oak and remarkable freshness. Quite creamy palate with no off putting bits. Very good! 18

Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
It's been a while since my last visit to the Mud House & I've been missing out. Nicely varietal nose that is herbaceous, citrussy & fresh. Great fruit quality - none of the overcropping shown in many Marlborough 08 Sauv's. Quite textural too. Well done. 18

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008
This time around and its worth its pricetag. Tightly packed, dense nose that feels like double strength Marlborough Sauv. Intense, green fruit, razor sharp intensity, big acid. Just the perfect Marlborough Sauv. 18.5

Tohu Wines Mugwi Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Another reserve wine that felt like reserve quality fruit. This actually had some creamy yeasty influences on the nose, suggesting some clever winemaking influences. Very fresh & big, chewy palate of serious intensity. Power and style. 18

Triplebank Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Perhaps my favourite of the lot. Quite a traditional gooseberry-meets-tropical-fruit nose. The palate deftly matches herbaceousness with the requisite ripe fruit generosity. Very high quality & 'classic'. 18.2

Vavasour Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I think this suffered due to being served too cold. Slightly shy, green bean nose, another traditionally proportioned palate, but lacking intensity. Still good quality. 17

Category 4: Lighter Bodied Dry Whites

Astrolabe Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008
Slightly sweet & a bit bland. A decent attempt at the richer Alsatian style but just comes across as a tad simple. 16.5

Bimbadgen Signature Mcdonalds Road Semillon 2006

Trophy Winner. Sadly, not my style of Hunter Sem: Carrying the green pea and straw character that I dislike in certain youngish Hunter Semillons. Still, I can appreciate the structure, which is powerful and built for the long haul. 16.2+

Chrismont La Zona Albarino 2008
Trophy winner. Big disappointment. Nothing nose, hot, ill defined palate. Lacks thrust, varietal character & appeal. 15.0-

Esk Valley Black Label Chenin Blanc 2008
Nicely crisp, varietal, honey & passionfruit nose. Lovely generous rich palate, very forward and drinkable. Very appealing, if not terribly complex. 17.0

Trentham Estate Albarino 2008
Starts superbly. Nicely ripe nose, full of appeal. Palate lets it all down. Had me convinced someone had poured Riverina Sem Chard in there by mistake. Watery & cheap tasting. 14.5

Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
I love this style of wine. Really love it. Love drinking it, love the definition, love the freshness, love the absolute pristine varietal characters most importantly. This is cast in a aromatic, herbal Sauvignon Blanc meets the more mid palate based generosity of Semillon and they hookup in a perfect symbiotic pairing. Lovely. 18.3

Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008
Wishy washy, 'grey' pear nose. Palate though makes up for it - ripe & textural with phenolic grip matching some RS sweetness. Clever. Tasty. Good. 17.9

Category 5 Medium Bodied Dry White Wines

Arlewood Estate 'Sussex Location 3391' Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Almost predictably brilliant, though as noted above, I'm a sucker for the style. This reminds me much of the similarly top shelf 06 Wallcliffe Sem/Sauv. Both showcase how well this style did in the chilly 06 vintage. Oaky, full & powerful nose, oak interwoven with lean grapefruit & white peach fruit, underlayed with the citrus fruit and dry finish that marks this style. Chardy like palate weight, but leaner and drier. Yum. 18.5

Juniper Estate Chardonnay 2007
Screams 07 Margaret River. Big, full, very ripe oak & golden fruit nose. Big, slightly hot, but utterly full steam palate. Nutty MR regionality. Great value. 17.5

Juniper Estate Semillon 2007
Nicely herbal nose. Another 'big oak' nose. Palate is fresh but dull and a little grey & neutral, the oak running the show. Nice dry finish. Needs about 12 months to come together. 16.8+

Millbrook Estate Viognier 2007
Quite light in colour, the nose is quite restrained and varietal. The palate however is big & alcoholic, the alcohol heat throwing the whole wine off balance. 16

Mount Dottrel Pinot Gris 2008
Light pear nose, palate shows good sweetness balance. Ultimately however its just too simple for top marks. 16.4

Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2008
Another grey, nothing nose. Overly sweet, dull palate. Disappointing. 15

Te Whare Ra Pinot Gris 2008
Growing tired of these watery, ill defined Pinot Gris. This has much better balance & drinkability, with proper concentration. Still a simple wine... 16.9

Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2003
Magic. Dense, old vine nose. Toast, lemony power, powerful, perfectly built palate. The secret here is just the intensity and complexity - it moves from green acidity to rich toasty development and back again with every sip. World class wine that could hold its own with German Riesling, White Burgundy, Alsatian Gewurtz's, Loire Chenins, all of them. 19.2

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2007
Big & massive & full on nose. Its full on Viognier done well. Chubby apricotty palate is just so generous and rich. Really tasty & convincing! 18.3

Fuller Bodied Dry White Wines

John Forrest Chardonnay 2004
Really good! Tight, milk & custard nose. Long, creamy & intense palate in a rounded, yet well structured Marlborough mould. I often find the Marlborough Pinots have the same trait - curvaceous yet fit. There is some bubblegum like development/winery influences here, but they can't detract from the drinkability. 18

Evans & Tate Wildberry Springs Chardonnay 2005
Dense & oaky. Heavily worked and just dull, almost sickly in its cheesy worked expression. A caricature. 14.5

Mission Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2007
Bright & modern nose. Quite oaky and generous and rich. Could be from just about anywhere however, which detracts from the final appeal. Would look better if presented by itself however. 16.8

Montalto Chardonnay 2007
Quite a rich, caramel & fig nose. Big and good quality if a tad broad. 17.2

Vavasour Anna's Vineyard Chardonnay 2006
Complex, figgy & layered style. Rich & well balanced. Obvious step up in quality & style. 18

Wills Domain Chardonnay 2007
High toned & quite elegant for the vintage. Quite a bright and airy palate. Nice. 17.6

Yalumba FDW7C Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007
Milky, incredibly well made, golden Chard thats cleverly worked. Finishes dry and interesting. Polished stuff. 17.8

Category 12 Dessert (unfortified) wines

Josef Chromy Botrytis Riesling 2007
Multiple trophy winner here. Floral, but grapey and only lightly Botrytis influenced nose. Long & juicy, lighter apricot & peach style. Nicely done. 17.5

Villa Maria Estate Reserve Noble Riesling 2006
Pungent & juicy, Marmalade nose. Hugely proportioned palate. Enormously sweet & fat, but tasty all the same. 17.5


  1. Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2003- will have to try and get some of this. Sounds impressive for what I am informed was a hot vintage.

  2. I've been telling anyone who wants to listen about that Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling '08 -most probably think I'm nuts. And it does have Eden Valley written all over it - you are correct. I was VERY impresssed. Can be had for $12 on special at the major chains - a no-brainer.

    And Charles Heidsieck NV is indeed looking up in recent times. A good call.


  3. Jeremy - I went online to find some 03 HVD straight after the tasting :)

    Micheal - Your not nuts, JC is great.

    I did an Advanced Wine Assessment course at the AWRI about 18 months ago and in big blind lineups the Reserve Cabernet, Chardonnay & Shiraz would often come out as the top picks.

    Unfortunately for JC (though good for value hunters) the perception of the brand is still centred around cheap drinks for the masses...

  4. I have been drinking a few bottles of '04 JC Reserve Riesling that I picked up for $10 each. Not sure how they were kept, but they're bloody good too. I wouldn't leave them too much longer (well cellared examples possibility will go on), but they are drinking VERY nicely at the moment. A faint touch of kero, but I don't mind that. Certainly, some subtle toasty flavours and raisins coming on.



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