Judge points to North East ‘gold’

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMIE KRONBORG jkro­n­borg@ne­me­dia.com.au

LEAD­ING wine judge Jane Faulkner has de­scribed North East wine grape grow­ers’ and vi­gnerons’ pur­suit of al­ter­na­tive va­ri­eties as ‘zeit­geist’ – em­blem­atic of the spirit of the time.

The Aus­tralian Al­ter­na­tive Wine Va­ri­eties’ Show judge last week in Myrtle­ford made the ob­ser­va­tion at the end of the two-day North East Wine Chal­lenge, in which wines from the wider re­gion’s five ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tions, or wine dis­tricts – Alpine Val­leys, Beech­worth, Glen­rowan, King Val­ley and Ruther­glen – are ranked by style.

Ms Faulkner chaired a panel of five to as­sess 213 en­tries – an in­crease of 50 on the num­ber sub­mit­ted for last year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Fel­low judges in­cluded Bests Great Western wine­maker Justin Purser and Bel­lar­ine Penin­sula’s Oak­dene Wines’ wine­maker Steven Paul and, as as­so­ci­ates, Gap­sted Wines’ wine­maker Blair Jensen and Ringer Reef’s Julie Holm.

“Of­ten th­ese re­gions are re­ally good in one par­tic­u­lar thing – like the Alpine Val­leys’ tem­pranillo is fan­tas­tic and Beech­worth chardon­nay is out­stand­ing,” Ms Faulkner said.

“But when I looked at the re­sults it’s clear that some­thing’s go­ing on.

“It’s zeit­geist. The num­ber of en­tries and qual­ity are at a higher level right across the board.

“It’s in­cre­men­tal year-on-year and it demon­strates that pro­duc­ers are say­ing ‘Well, we think this show is re­ally wor­thy of us putting our wines in’.

“That’s an ef­fort and al­ways an ex­pense. But the num­bers are in­creas­ing – and the re­sult is bet­ter wines.”

Ms Faulkner par­tic­u­larly re­marked the qual­ity of a Beech­worth Fight­ing Gully Road chardon­nay made by Adrian Rodda for Mark Walpole, for which the panel awarded a gold medal.

“At 95 points (one point be­low the 2016 Bro­ken­wood Indigo Vine­yard chardon­nay ‘wine of show’) it’s a truly beau­ti­ful wine,” she said.

“Chardon­nay is a stand-out in all th­ese re­gions and Beech­worth steals the show with this va­ri­ety.

“Alpine Val­leys does well, too, and just a mat­ter of time be­fore they get more recog­ni­tion.”

But Ms Faulkner said it was with al­ter­na­tive grape va­ri­eties, such as tem­pranillo, ver­mentino and bar­bera, that vi­gnerons and wine­mak­ers in the wider re­gion were “mak­ing a mark”.

“Th­ese are va­ri­eties in which the Alpine Val­leys, in par­tic­u­lar, are do­ing so well,” she said.

“For ex­am­ple, the chief of judges’ tro­phy went to a tem­pranillo.

“It’s gone be­yond be­ing a wine to watch – it’s truly mak­ing its mark.

“There was a 2016 tem­pranillo in the (judg­ing) that I felt was so good – com­plex, with such beau­ti­ful fruit, balance and length. “It was quite spine-tin­gling. “It’s ex­cit­ing, it’s lovely and it was from May­ford Wines at Pore­punkah.

“It was just so good and needed to be recog­nised.

“There was an­other re­ally fan­tas­tic wine, Billy But­ton’s ‘The Af­fa­ble Bar­bera’, one of Joanne Marsh’s wines.

“It’s prob­a­bly one of the best bar­beras I’ve had in a long time and made faith­fully to va­ri­ety and style.

“And what I love is that when you look at th­ese so-called al­ter­na­tive va­ri­eties you know that there’s not a lot of plant­ings, but what’s com­ing from them is so good - and that’s what makes this show so ex­cit­ing.

“We’re tast­ing the best of what th­ese va­ri­eties can be.”

Ms Faulkner said the Chal­lenge demon­strated that the wider North East was be­com­ing what could be de­scribed as an ‘al­ter­na­tive va­ri­eties’ cap­i­tal’ of Aus­tralian wine.

Adrian Rodda took sil­ver in the chardon­nay class with his ‘A. Rodda’-la­belled Smiths Vine­yard chardon­nay from fruit grown just south of Beech­worth.

Indigo Vine­yard ‘Se­cret Vil­lage’ viog­nier was awarded gold and its rou­sanne bronze in the white Rhone va­ri­eties’ class.

Fight­ing Gully Road’s 2016 pinot noir won the pinot noir class with 95 points and a gold medal and the A. Rodda cu­vee de Chez, with 96 points, won gold for the Bordeaux va­ri­eties and blends’ class.

Fight­ing Gully Road’s 2015 shi­raz and Hal­don Es­tate’s Hal­don shi­raz from the same vin­tage shared the gold medal in the shi­raz class.

The North East Wine Chal­lenge 2017 re­gional shield went to Alpine Val­leys.

PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

PRAISE: North East Wine Chal­lenge and Aus­tralian Al­ter­na­tive Wine Va­ri­eties’ Show chief judge Jane Faulkner with Beech­worth wine­maker Adrian Rodda (left) and Fight­ing Gully Road prin­ci­pal Mark Walpole – who was sub­se­quently named Gourmet Trav­eller Wine viti­cul­tur­al­ist of the year 2017 – at the Chal­lenge tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion in Myrtle­ford last week.

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