Wine show judges seek character and charm

By Louise Johnson
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Tasting lineup at the Cool Climate Wine Show.

Tasting lineup at the Cool Climate Wine Show.

In 2008 the Royal Melbourne Wine Show introduced a new class designed to recognise varietal trends and to encourage creativity in winemaking. spoke with Steve Webber, newly appointed chairman of judges and chief winemaker at DeBortoli Wines, about the changing face of wine shows.

The Australian wine industry is in an interesting and dynamic state of play and needs to be reflected in a contemporary wine show scene, says Steve.

"Both our domestic and international markets are increasingly looking for more character, excitement and charm in Australian wine. The Australian wine show system has a role to play in setting wine style direction for the future," he says.

One new direction, introduced in 2008 at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show, is a new class called the Wines with Character, Charm and Interest in the $15-$25 class, which aims to encourage imagination in wine style.

"The main impression that people have about wine shows are that they have concentrated on the faults in wines and so we've taken out a lot of the faults in wines, but in doing so we've also taken out some of the character and this is what makes wine really interesting.

"It's like this in a lot of things. Quite often its the minor faults that make a thing unique and beautiful and interesting. We always use the analagy that a pretty girl with a small mole on her face is far more aluring than a girl with a perfect face. We want wine with character and charm and allure and it's not always the most perfect wine that has these qualities," he says.

Steve says judges looked for more Mediterranean styles of wine in this class, wines that had a point of difference. The whites were to be dry and savory perhaps with some lees influence. The reds would have some rustic charm, dry in style without obvious oak character.

"We expect this new category will encourage local winemakers to produce more adventurous light to medium bodies wines that possess a distinct point of difference," says Steve.  The inaugural Wines with Character, Charm and Internet in the $15-$25 class was won by Tyrell's Vineyard in Hunter Valley for its Stevens Semillon 2004 and the Brackenwood Vineyard in Adelaide Hills for its MC Syrah 2007.

The Single Vineyard category was again a feature of the show this year and Steve says these wines form an increasingly important part of the premium sector of the Australian wine industry. In 2007 this category included only chardonnay, but in 2008 pinot noir and shiraz were included.

The wines are blind tasted and Steve says judges looked for character of site and detail in the wine. "We're looking for detail, looking for hints of variety, but not excessive amounts. We're looking for some minerality and we're looking for some texture and we're looking for some signs of site, of where it might be grown."

Increasingly wine drinkers are becoming interested in the concept of terroir in Australia and placing value on limited volume of wines that can be produced from some these often remarkable sites.

"From what was entered, there is still some industry confusion on what a single vineyard wine is," he says. "Does it mean ‘terroir’ or does it mean ’small vineyard area’? My personal feeling is that it is a contiguous piece of cultivated vineyard that displays characteristics of site, variety and season. Wines exhibited where the detail is lost from excessive use of oak, overt varietal expression or over extraction etc, probably don’t belong in these classes," he says.

One question that has been raised is where to put wines that have the same same level of detail and terroir but are from more than one vineyard, eg Claret styles from an estate that blends a number of plots. "This is certainly a dilemma," says Steve and while the show committee don't have all the answers they are certainly giving something different a go.


2008 Trophy Winners

The JIMMY WATSON MEMORIAL TROPHY for the Best Red Wine in the 2007 Vintage Year
Flametree Wines: Flametree Cabernet Merlot 2007

The PREMIER'S GOLD TROPHY FOR VICTORIAN WINE for the Best Victorian White Wine in
B Seppelt & Sons: Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay 2006

The FRANCOIS DE CASTELLA TROPHY for the Most Successful Victorian Exhibitor in Show,
presented by the Victorian Wine Industry Association.
Morris Wines

Swinging Bridge Estate: Swinging Bridge Chardonnay 2007

TROPHY for the Best Fortified Wine In Show 
Morris Wines: Morris Old Premium Liqueur Muscat NV

The KUBOTA TROPHY for the Best 2008 White Wine 
Grant Burge Wines: Grant Burge Thorn Eden Valley Riesling 2008 

TROPHY for the Best Rose - Light Drinking Red 
Yalumba Wine Company: Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rose 2008

The ACQUA PANNA TROPHY for the Best Riesling -
Leasingham: Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling 2005 

The PORTAVIN TROPHY for the Best Chardonnay 
Wolf Blass Wines Pty Ltd: Wolf Blass White Label Chardonnay 2006

The NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS TROPHY for the Best Semillon 
Tyrrell's Vineyards Pty Ltd: HVD Semillon 2005

TROPHY for the Best Other Varieties White 
Australian Vintage Ltd: McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2007 

TROPHY for the Best Sweet White Dessert Wine 
Josef Chromy Wines: Josef Chromy Botrytis Riesling 2007

The A & G ENGINEERING TROPHY for the Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Chateau Reynella: Chateau Reynella Cabernet 2006

The WINE ARK TROPHY for the Best Shiraz 
Paringa Estate: Estate Shiraz 2006

TROPHY for the Best Pinot Noir 
Sticks Yarra Valley: Sticks Select Pinot Noir 2006

The MH NEW ZEALAND TROPHY for the Best Merlot - 
No Trophy Awarded

TROPHY for the Best Other Varieties Red 
Starvedog Lane: Starvedog Lane Shiraz Viognier 2006

The WINE SOCIETY TROPHY for the Best Red Wine 2004 & Older
Hardy Wine Company: Hardys Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

The DOUGLAS SEABROOK TROPHY for the Best White Wine 2004 & Older
Peter Lehmann Wines: Wigan Riesling 2003

The VINTAGE CELLARS TROPHY for the Best $15 To $25 White Wine 
Tyrrell's Vineyards Pty Ltd: Stevens Semillon 2004

The RURAL FINANCE TROPHY for the Best $15 To $25 Red Wine
Brackenwood Vineyard: Brackenwood Vineyard MC Syrah 2007

The AMORIM CORK TROPHY for the Best Sparkling White / Rose Wine 
Coldstream Hills: Coldstream Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2004

The KILCHURN WINES TROPHY for the Best Sparkling Red 
No Trophy Awarded

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