In what has become something of a tradition (posts here, here, here, here and here for starters), I went to this year’s 2019 Sydney Royal Wine Show exhibitor event tasting again this year, just to try the trophy winners.
Why? Because big-city shows can deliver mindbending results, and I like trying to work out why wines that don’t scream ‘trophy quality’ take out the silverware (which inevitably happens).
That sounds cynical, but hear me out.
The Sydney Royal Wine Show is one of the most professionally run in the country, and I can say that as a previous member of the Wine Show Advisory Committee who has witnessed the rigour of the process.
Yet it suffers the same issue of many Australian wine shows with large classes – the winning entrants are often skillfully made but not necessarily the ‘best in breed’ from a pure quality viewpoint.
Spotless winemaking, but simplistic drinks.
Conversely, winners can also be especially overt wines that stick out in a big lineup – an especially oaky red, or a white wine with sharp acidity for example.
I’m generalising, and there are plenty of winning wines that defy the logic. In fact, I’d call this bracket of trophy winners one of the best in some time.
Still, it’s so instructive to taste these wines and work backwards, asking, at all times, why a wine won a trophy and whether it was deserving.
Sadly, I was on a very tight turnaround for this lineup so I didn’t get to all the top wines (and the Heathcote Estate was MIA amongst others). Hopefully, this is still useful.
Notes are as written (hurriedly) on the day, extra context in italics.
Robert Stein Riesling 2016
Winner, Douglas Lamb Trophy for Best Riesling. I liked this Riesling when it was first released too. One of Mudgee’s best wineries for mine, and great Riesling.
Toast with a whisper of turpentine and lime citrus edges. Still primary, but no doubting that it’s ageing. That petrol character is so fleeting that it doesn’t detract. Well-judged palate, with nice soft real acidity and the bottled aged toast is weaved in nicely. Falls away a smidgen, but enjoyable Riesling. Balance! 18/20, 93/100.
Jacobs Creek Riesling 2019
Winner, RAS of NSW Annual Prize for Best Young White.
Primary fruit aplenty. It’s not particularly varietal, nor is it regional, but it is a generous mouthful of ripe lime juice and with enough crisp acidity. Surprisingly long too. In the scheme of things a bargain. But as the best young white? A broad, fruity friendly number that lacks definition? If it won the Value trophy I’d be all for it. But there are quality tiers out there above this. I imagine this would stick out with its generosity though… 16.8/20, 89/100.
Simon Tolley Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Winner, The McCarthy Perpetual Trophy for Best Sauvignon. A new name for me and promise here. That nose would have won the trophy.
Clearly varietal green pea citrus, biting acidity. Perhaps a little green edged and pyrazine dominant but long and clear cut. Don’t discount the purity of this style. Razor-sharp freshness. 17.7/20, 92/100.
McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2013
Winner, The David Clarke Memorial Perpetual Trophy for Best Semillon; The Dr Henry John Lindeman Memorial Perpetual Prize for Best Mature White & The NSW Department of Primary Industries James Busby Perpetual Trophy for Best NSW Wine. Not hard to admire the quality vs price here. Close your eyes and imagine you’re drinking ILR-lite for under $20.
Great value. This has green melon primary fruit, a little whisper of toast overlay and a softly, naturally acidic palate. Really, kicks so far above its station. Maybe a little short? Worth the dollars. 18/20, 93/100.
Two Rivers Semillon 2019
Winner, The Dan Murphy’s Value Perennial Trophy for Best Value White.
A mouthful of green apple acid juice. Affable. Has a just-fermented fruit salad ester character and maybe a little sweetness. But a simple object. Maybe the judges thought it affable enough? 16.5/20, 88/100.
Artwine Wicked Stepmother Fiano 2019
Winner, The Bert Bear Memorial Perpetual Trophy for Best Other White Varietal. Meh.
Broad citrus, biting acidity, but ill-defined varietal character and broad middle. Ok. Maybe the concentration of flavour was a hit? 16.5/20, 88/100.
Josef Chromy Pinot Noir 2017
Winner, The Geoffrey Crundall Perpetual Trophy for Best Pinot Noir.
Nails it. Cheery, cherry red raspberry fruit, a whisper of mulch and the oak melts in through the middle. This is lovely, open, perfectly judged. Almost too affable for Tassie – you could pick it as Yarra, except the acidity is tighter. Lovely. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Hentley Farm Vixen Grenache 2018
Winner, The International Guest Judge Annual Prize & The Steward Annual Prize.
Pinot-like red raspberry and red lolly, the palate is just a little warm but not doubting the openness and attractive style. Alluring, if playing a single note of red fruit. I could drink this. 17.8/20, 92/100.
Harry’s Tintara GSM 2017
Winner, The John Swann Perpetual Trophy for Best Other Red Blend. Maybe the judges were just seduced?
Slightly industrial, fudgey Vale red. Nice enough but the edges feel a bit cooked and missing tannins. Commercial appeal but a bit made. 16.8/20, 89/100.
S.C. Pannell Nero Diavola 2018
Winner, The Wine Communicators of Australia Perpetual Trophy for Best Other Red Varietal. Has a sense of next level interest compared to so many Nero styles. Steve Pannell knows his shit.
Really plump black and red fruit, no oak, just pristine tarry berries. It’s joven-esque, a little simple fruit but the class of Pannell. Tasty. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Winner, The Dan Murphy’s Perennial Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine of Show for me. Buy with confidence.
Super classy Margaret River Cab. Tannins close over your mouth, the dark berry fruit doesn’t stop, the oak formidable but not out of place. Length, breadth and quality. Benchmark Margaret River red. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Deep Woods Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec 2017
Winner, The Jones, Steains and Waller Perpetual Trophy for Best Cabernet Dominant Blend or Shiraz Dominant Blend. Really not far behind the Reserve Cab in the scheme of things.
Another classy Margs red. Hasn’t got the oak and penetration of the top dog but lovely drive of tannin and the Malbec gives this more red fruit. Delicious, mid-weight Margs red. 18.5/20, 94/100.