Regional Wine Shows
While capital city shows accept entries from all over the county, the (smaller) regional shows are limited to the wines from their region. For instance the Royal Hobart Wine Show is a national show, while the Tasmanian Wine Show is limited to the Island’s wines. The Royal Adelaide Wine Show is national, while regional wine shows are run in the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Limestone Coast, which incorporates Coonawarra. The National Wine Show of Australia only accepts entries that ‘qualify through Australian regional & capital city wine shows, and special purpose competitions’ and is essentially looking for the best of the best.
Special Purpose Shows and Competitions
While the agricultural and regional wine shows are run on a not-for-profit basis, there are a number of commercial wine shows. The Australian & New Zealand Boutique Wine Show, the Sydney International Wine Competition, the National Cool Climate Wine Show, Australian Small Winemakers Show, the Canberra International Riesling Challenge and the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge are just a few of the names out there. All are professionally run, but consumers may be baffled by the difference between a small winemaker and a boutique one.
How important are these competitions for winemakers and vineyards?
While the winning of these awards can create a splash in the media, it is certainly not mandatory for winegrowers to enter into wine shows — and is actually a very costly process in terms of dollars, time and wine for the winemaker. Often small prestige producers with limited stock would rather sell via their cellar door. Large companies and those new to the business can gain attention by boasting of their gold medals and trophies, but on the flip side, a cult maker may not want to tell their dedicated customers their latest chardonnay scored just 14 points!! It happened to one of our iconic winegrowers and he’s never entered a wine show since.
What is this 100 point system I keep hearing about in the wine world??
Robert Parker Junior published the subscription-based Wine Advocate for over 30 years, predicated on his ability to pick winners. The great 1982 Bordeaux reds were overlooked by the traditional English wine critics, but Parker trumpeted their virtues. He was right, and his reputation was set in stone.
Parker began using a 100 point system, with all his top wines scoring in the high-90’s. Parker has awarded 100 points to the Chamber’s Rosewood Rutherglen Rare Muscat. The US-based Wine Spectator followed Parker’s lead with their 1995 Top 100 Wine of the Year awarded to the 1990 Penfold’s Grange with a rating of 97 points – a wine listed at $100 USD per bottle!!
Australian Wine Shows have now adopted the 100 point system with wines scoring less than 85 points in the N.B.M. category, a silver medal awarded at 90 points and a gold above 95. James Halliday follows the 100 point system, scoring the Morris of Rutherglen Old Premium Rare Liqueur Muscat at 100 points.
Victories versus value… is it worth it??
In reality, medals and trophies are only a guide and rarely take into account price. A $15 bottle can rub shoulders in the same wine-show class as a $150 bottle. Is the $150 bottle ten times as good? No—it may be better but the multiplier effect really doesn’t work with wine. Wines in the $10-$20 range are made to drink now and not necessarily cellared for a decade. Winning a medal — or even better, a trophy — is a quality guide but in the end, trust your palate and buy the wines that bring pleasure to you, your family and your friends.
Heathcote is Victoria’s premium Shiraz producing region. It is positioned in the heartland of central Victoria – mid way between Shepparton and Bendigo. The countryside is truly Australian – harsh, dry, dusty and has a low rainfall. The conditions here are difficult, with some years suffering from drought and others from too much rainfall or frost. The vines are low yielding, small and gnarled. The lack of moisture and harsh circumstances sends the root structure deep into a narrow belt of Cambrian high mineral soil that runs north from Heathcote township. This unique terroir produces intense, deeply coloured and flavoured fruit – and wine with unique savoury flavours.
First call is to the areas’ benchmark pioneer and producer, Ron Laughton from Jasper Hill Estate. Ron started the whole Heathcote journey some 40 years ago and is hailed as the pinnacle producer of the region. His wine is simply stunning – and so is his generosity. He takes me for a full tour, including tasting barrel samples of new vintages that will be blended to make up the next Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz. Next up is a visit to Bob Downing from Downing Estate, just over the road from Jasper Hill with vines planted in the same band of Cambrian soil. Some of Bob’s Shiraz’s are included in this month’s subscription. Sanguine Estate is next – this winery, along with Jasper Hill, Downing’s and Paul Osika are Halliday 5 Red Star rated – the highest awarded. Sanguine’s Shiraz’s are regularly rated amongst the 10 best in the world, along with the likes of Penfolds’ Grange. Heathcote is one of our finest Shiraz producing regions – producing wine of an acquired savoury taste profile. However, it’s not a tourist area with destination wineries. To see a broad selection from the region, visit The Wine Hub Cellar and Store in Heathcote Main Street – they stock products from almost all the area’s producers.
You’ll notice that in many of our wine descriptions we include reference to James Halliday and his wine & vineyard ratings. But why should this particular man and his personal rating system shape our impression of the wines offered by Vendimia each quarter?
James Halliday is one of Australia’s most respected wine critics and vignerons. His career spans 47 years, and he is widely known in the industry for his witty and informative writing about all things wine. He was one of the founders of the Brokenwood vineyard in the Hunter Valley and Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley, and is an unmatched authority on every aspect of the wine industry, from planting and pruning to making and marketing. Over his career James has contributed to more than 60 books on wine, with his most notable publication being the annual Australian Wine Companion — recognised nationally as the industry benchmark resource on Australia vineyards and the wines they produce.
HALLIDAY WINERY RATINGS
As part of developing the content for the Australian Wine Companion and its supporting website www.winecompanion.com.au, James developed his own system for rating wineries and their wines. With Australia broken down into its 63 distinct wine regions, James began nominating the best wineries in each regions using a three-tier classification system.
DOUBLE-RED 5-STAR RATING (TOP 3.5% OF WINERIES)
At the very top are the wineries with both their names and their star rating printed in red; these have been generally recognised for having a long track record of excellence – truly the best of the best.
RED 5-STAR RATING (FOLLOWING 8.3% OF WINERIES)
Next are wineries with their stars (but not their names) printed in red, which have had a consistent record of excellence for at least the last three years.
BLACK 4/5-STAR RATING (FOLLOWING 28.2%)
Those wineries with black printed names and stars have achieved excellence this year (and sometimes longer). The vast majority of wineries that supply Vendimia are Halliday 4 star rated or greater.
HALLIDAY WINE RATINGS
After rating the winery, James then rates most of the individual wines produced by them. These wines are rated numerically by him within a range from 75 to 99 points. Wines from 86 to 99 points are considered Bronze/Silver or Gold medal standard wines. The wines included in Vendimia subscriptions invariable carry James Halliday ratings of between 90-95 points.