TWO MATURE WINES PROVE THAT AGE IS NO BARRIER TO SUCCESS IN SA’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS
The winners in our SA Wine of the Year awards are proof that age shall not weary them.
world may be mesmerised by the culture of youth, but in wine terms, age makes all the difference. This year, in the South Australian Wine of the Year awards, two wines stood head and shoulders above their fellows – one white and one red – and both were mature and graceful beauties. From a magnificent vintage, the duo of 2004 wines impressed separate panels of judges. A professional industry team recognised the glory of just developing riesling, while a group of keen amateurs, the SA Wine of the Year awards’ unique consumer judges, were seduced by a super premium cabernet that has only just embarked on a long and delightful life’s journey.
The wines are a snapshot of a wonderful growing season in two revered SA regions, Eden Valley for the riesling and Clare for the cabernet. But they also reveal a few truths one regular SA judge wishes more wine lovers would take on board. “We’ve become too used to drinking our wines too young,” says Woodcroft-based winemaker Geoff Merrill.
A long-time advocate for letting our wines settle into a more balanced and mature set of tastes and aromas, Merrill was instrumental in establishing the SA awards’ museum class, which offers a home for wines six years and older to be judged in their right context rather than against full-on, fruit-bomb youngsters. “Aged red wines have another dimension beyond just fruit flavours,” Merrill says.
This year’s consumer panel judged the Jim Barry Wines 2004 Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon as their favourite older wine, then gave it ultimate approval as their wine of the year, above many fresh young drinks. The professionals awarded their Wine of the Year accolade to the Pewsey Vale The Contours Reserve Release Riesling from the same year.
The result is fantastic for raising the profile of aged wines, says Merrill, and why the awards’ museum class is so important. “As soon as you let consumers make the comparison (between young and older wines) they recognise them as being so lovely.”
While mature reds are an accepted part of our wine drinking culture, it surprises many that a white wine can be at the height of its powers with a few years under the belt. Sometimes an older white can begin to go golden. It can develop aromas and flavours that are reminiscent of toast and honey, and with riesling, even lime marmalade. “The 2004 riesling is ageing beautifully,” chairman of judges and renowned riesling maker David O’Leary says. While The Contours was the outstanding wine in its category, across both young and old wines, O’Leary was excited also by the latest vintage 2009 and 2010 rieslings. “If ever a variety could take heart and get a lift in the marketplace from the pure quality of wines, the latest two vintages should be able to do that,” he says.
This year’s already highly regarded wine vintage also produced a winner in the award’s newest category, for certified organic wines, established to support a growing niche in the wine world. The professional judges in this class gave their nod to an excitingly youthful preservative-free shiraz from McLaren Vale producer Battle of Bosworth, which also won the consumer choice in the same category for its 2009 cabernet sauvignon. Both wines should forever dispel the myth that such drinks can be more rustic than refined.
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