Inside Australia’s Wine Awards: Agricultural Wine Shows

By Peter Bourne.

The origins of the Australian wine show system date back to the early 19th century, when they were a small part of the agricultural shows set up to improve the breed – be it cattle, sheep, wheat, wool or wine. The Sydney Royal Wine Show has been running since 1826 and is managed by the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. The RAS website claims the Society has been ‘an influential force in the direction and development of Australian agriculture through competitions, education and events since its foundation in 1822.’ Other capital cities followed their lead.

However, over time, these wine shows have morphed from their original purpose to become a marketing tool used by wine producers keen to encourage hesitant consumers to buy their brand. This coming August the 2019 KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show chairman P.J. Charteris will lead a highly qualified group of 24 judges and associates in the blind tasting of 2200 wines. The wines will be tasted in classes (variety and style) by 3 judges each to determine which of the 20, 50 or more wines in the class should be awarded a bronze, silver or gold medal.

In the ‘olden days’ a pencil, rubber and clipboard were the tools — in the modern age i-Pads are the go. Traditional scoring was out of 20 (more about the 100 point system soon) — 3 points were awarded for colour & condition, 7 for aroma & bouquet and 10 for flavour. Wines that scored less than 14 were considered N.B.M. (nil by mouth) i.e. faulty and undrinkable. Nowadays our university trained winemakers ensure very few wines fall into his group. Around half the wines will be deemed a decent wine within the parameters of the class and scored between 14.1 to 15.4. The real action starts at 15.5 with a wine scoring up to 16.9 awarded a bronze medal, those between 17.1-18.4 a silver and above 18.5 a converted gold medal. Typically 25-40% of entries will score a bronze, 5-10% a silver and just 3-5% a gold medal. The tasting of the 2200 wines will go on for 3 days with each judge tasting 300-400 wines — a gruelling process, believe it or not! Gathering their tired tongues on the 4th day, all the judges taste the gold medal wines to determine the trophy winner for that class, or group of classes. Trophy winners are then eligible for the white or red wine of the show and finally the top gong — the wine of the show. Exhausted, the judges retire to the pub for a beer.

Extract from Vendimia Harvest Issue No8.

Summertime…

– With Peter Bourne

The warmer weather of our summer months lures us out of our wintery shells into the dazzling sunshine – and the heat. Cool flavours are what we seek – be it food or drinks. When it comes to food, the duo of Australia’s abundance of seafood and our incredible array of multicultural cuisines offers fresh, bright flavours that suit the balmy weather. Oysters, prawns, tuna, salmon and all-sorts of cephalopods – served a la natural or cooked with exotic spices and served with a wedge of lemon.

The barbecue becomes the focus with grilled sausages, chops and steaks served with simple salads. In fact, led by cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi, those salads are becoming more complex with healthy grains and pulses giving them the protein boost for a stand-alone lunch or for a light evening meal.

So let’s explore the amazing range of summertime wines. Oh, and remember to cool your reds on a blazing hot day…..

PICNICS

Outdoor eating takes on a whole new guise when it’s packed in a picnic basket, lugged for miles before being set up in a cool, grassy glade. Equally heavy is the mandatory Australian icon — an Esky brim full of cold beer and appropriately chill-able wines.

One of the best tips when matching food and wine is to balance the weight of the wine with the complexity of the food. Picnic food is fresh and tasty, so select equally refreshing whites and juicy, light-framed reds. That hefty basket may include a quiche, frittata, pâté, terrine, a plethora of charcuterie and some stinky cheese.

Pop the cork on an Angullong Sparkling Rosé to salve the thirst before moving on to a crisp white such as the Nine Yards Sauvignon Blanc.

Eschew your heavyweight shiraz and cabernets for alfresco reds that welcome a gentle chill. Pull them out of the icy Esky to allow them to come up a few degrees before serving. The savoury, spicy Colab & Bloom Grenache works well with salami or pork and pistachio terrine. Pair the raspberry and aniseed flavoured Willunga 100 Tempranillo with a Manchego cheese for a true Iberian experience.

One of the great benefits of Australian winegrower’s universal move to the screwcap is that forgetting a corkscrew is no longer the picnic disaster that it was in the olden days of cork!

SEAFOOD FEAST

Australia’s incredible wealth of seafood offers the opportunity to indulge in a feast of fresh and simply cooked crustacean, whole fish and other underwater treats. Oysters are a delicious starter and just perfect with a crisp, dry riesling from the Eden or Clare Valleys. The riesling’s citrus bright acidity replaces the need for a squeeze of lemon. Semillon is another wonderful seafood white — try a zippy young Hunter Valley semillon with a salt and pepper squid. Sauvignon blanc is equally seafood friendly – try the Leura Park Estate Sauvignon Blanc with a Thai style prawn and glass noodle salad.

Whole fish makes a great centre point to a seafood feast. Pair breezy white like the Buller King Valley Pinot Grigio with a snapper spiced with lemongrass and ginger or a delicate pinot noir with a whole baked Tasmanian salmon. The pinot’s mildmannered tannins and tangy acidity will cut through the oily (Omega 3 rich) texture of the salmon like a hot knife through butter. Speaking of butter, if the budget allows, split a fresh crayfish and grill it with a smothering of herb infused butter. Serve it with a buttery ‘old-school’ chardonnay for a marvellous food and wine match. Salmon also lends itself to Japanese dishes like sashimi or sushi – serve with lightly chilled sake for a nice (nationalistic) match. Salmon also shines as the base for Nordic-inspired gravlax. Damien Pignolet, of Claude’s and Bistro Moncur fame, marinated the salmon in sauvignon blanc for his legendary gravlax – so there’s an obvious synergy in serving a savoury sauvignon blanc.

Bouillabaisse is the ultimate seafood dish, its gusty (saffron) spiced flavours typically paired with an acid-etched Beaujolais Nouveau. An alternative is a frisky rosé with soft redcurrant flavours and an incisive acidity to cut through the seafood rich bouillabaisse and its garlic-laced aioli. Serve by lapping water to emulate a truly Mediterranean experience.

LONG & LAZY SUMMER LUNCH

School and public holidays offer the opportunity to invite family and friends for a long, lazy lunch. Kick things off with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like moscato or an offdry riesling (labelled as kabinett in Germany) with those from the Mosel the exemplar of the style. Served well chilled, the wine’s sweet’n’sour flavours echo those of an icy lemon sorbet. Served at 11am with a platter of fresh fruit, at 5-7% alcohol, an extra glass or two of moscato won’t impede the pleasures of a lengthy lunch.

Step the pace up a bit with a Champagne or sparkling wine. Australia’s top bubbles stand proudly alongside the French stuff, as they’re made with the same grape varieties using the methode traditionelle technique. The only thing missing in Australia is Champagne’s terroir Defining chalk. Serve the Saddler’s Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir with freshly shucked Port Stephen’s oysters for the ultimate palate cleanser.

It’s time for an entrée – perhaps a retro prawn cocktail served on a bed of shaved iceberg lettuce and doused in Marie Rose sauce. A crisp dry rosé such as the Leura Park Estate Rosé is a blushing companion to the equally rosy prawn cocktail.

Turkey and ham sneak their way into many family lunches with yester-year’s roast vegetables replaced by complex salads in the Ottolenghi style. A fuller white such as Monterra Chardonnay would work with the dense protein of the turkey. However, for a curved ball, try a sparkling red with the ham. The French despise the concept but sparkling red is as Australian as an Akubra hat. Sparkling reds are traditionally made with shiraz but the Saddler’s Creek team use cabernet sauvignon as the base for their Bluegrass Sparkling — and it’s a ripper. Serve the ham with your choice of mustards and don’t over chill the Bluegrass.

Now for dessert, a rare course for a weeknight meal, but the mandatory finale to a long lunch. Grandma’s pudding is legendary, usually accompanied by a brandy infused custard. Now’s the perfect moment to serve that port stuck at the back of the drinks cupboard. Buller Tawny is lush and plush, its raisiny flavours just perfect with grandma’s pudding. It’s now time for an afternoon nap.

Tim Smith: Barossa Valley Winemaker of the Year!!

Tim Smith Wines is a 5 RED STAR Halliday winery. And now head winemaker Tim has been awarded the highly respected title of Barossa Winemaker of the Year by the Barons of Barossa.

So, who is Tim?

Tim started his career in wine by working as a cellar hand for Yalumba in 1987 – 15 years later, having completed a wine science degree and with his experience in winemaking, he wont the Winemaker Exchange Scholarship to the Rhone Valley in France. In September 2001, Tim made the decision to start Tim Smith Wines, with the first vintage being made in 2002. And the rest is history…

Two of his outstanding wines are featured in our March 2019 Barossa Valley subscriptions:

Bugalugs by Tim Smith Shiraz

 https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/22281-bugalugs-by-tim-smith-shiraz/

 96 Halliday Points
A juicy, not too serious wine, with impressive Barossa floor flavours and soft tannins from the use of older American and French oak. Included in the March 2019 Premium Reds & Premium Mixed subscriptions. A showcasing of Tim’s standout winemaking, the passion in the bottle is evident. Available now for purchase.

 

Tim Smith MGS (Mataro Grenache Shiraz)

https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/22280-tim-smith-mataro-grenache-shiraz/

Tim drew inspiration from the Southern Rhone style in making this wine. A blend from low yeilding vines across the Barossa, aged in older oak – this wine is plush & aromatic. Included in our March 2019 Premium Reds subscription. A wine with serious cellaring potential. Available now for purchase.

“I am a huge fan of the wines of Bandol, and I unashamedly draw inspiration from this Southern Rhone appellation. My Barossa Mataro Grenache Shiraz is made with Mataro being the dominant grape. This allows the Mataro fruit, which has a similar tannin structure as Shiraz, to be ready to drink upon release as well as having some serious cellaring potential.”  Tim Smith