My co-chair on the Australian panel at this year's Decanter awards, Michael Hill Smith MW, made three telling observations after the event had wound up. First, that Australia is putting its best foot forward as producers in Europe's 'classic' regions are becoming more cagey about entering competitions.
Secondly, that Australia is increasingly showing distinct regional personality in its wines. Finally, he supports the late, great walking wine encyclopedia Len Evans' Theory of Capacity: given that a person's wine consumption is finite, drinking an inferior bottle is like smashing a superior bottle against a wall.
As if to prove his first point, Australia scored 55 gold and 228 silver medals from a 1,110 Aussie bottles tasted at the 15,000-strong wine competition held in May. Reds and whites took roughly equal honours; with the 26 red golds dominated by shiraz and grenache/shiraz/mourvèdre blends based on Barossa and Clare Valleys – including a youthful, blackcurranty 2012 Penfolds Bin 138 Shiraz Grenache Mourvèdre, £25.68, Spirited Wines; an intense, dark berry-fruity 2010 Skillogalee Shiraz, £16.98, Corking Wines and a powerfully spicy 2012 Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz, £17.50-18.33, The Wine Society, Jeroboams.
Top of the white wine pops was Aussie chardonnay, which now rivals white burgundy for the high honours. Of the eight chardonnay golds, Margaret River dominated. A brilliant example being the 2012 Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay, £22.50, Laithwaites, £129/6, Fine & Rare Wines. But the outstanding trophy winner was the 2011 Penfolds Bin 44 Yattarna Chardonnay, £120, Berry Bros, Spirited Wines, a stunner from Tasmania worthy of Burgundy grand cru status, and indeed so worthy it comes with the a similiar eye-watering price.
The riesling, semillon and viognier was every bit as exciting, too. Yalumba, with stablemates Heggies and Pewsey Vale, collected five golds: two for the superb Pewsey Vale Contours Museum Reserve Riesling, the smoky 2008, £15, slurp.co.uk, winning the international over £15 trophy, and two viognier golds for the terrific value 2013 Yalumba Y Viognier, £9.95, winedirect.co.uk, and even more opulent, the peachy 2012 Eden Valley Viognier, £12.99, Waitrose, £57/6, Tesco.
Meanwhile, semillon took five golds, four from Hunter Valley, including the classic, toast-and-honey 2007 ILR Brokenwood Reserve, £26.50-£28.50, Hennings, winedirect.co.uk. and also for the refreshingly citrusy 2017 McWilliams' Mount Pleasant Lovedale, £24.95, slurp.co.uk. Many of the gold-medal winners are not yet on the water, but I hope to report as and when the most exciting make their appearance on UK shelves.Reuse content