Hal­l­i­day homes in on Huon for pick of the pinots

Drinks and fam­ily links aplenty at school of good drops

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - STEVE WATER­SON

De­spite its size, the Aus­tralian wine in­dus­try is close-knit, with fam­ily and busi­ness links across the coun­try, and gen­er­a­tions.

That was un­der­lined yes­ter­day when Tim Dolan, a third­gen­er­a­tion Barossa wine­maker, was named dux of the Len Evans Tu­to­rial, the wine school in the NSW Hunter Val­ley founded in 2001 by one of the wine world’s leg­endary fig­ures.

“It’s so lovely that Tim should win it,” said Evans’s daugh­ter Sally, one of the trustees of the Tu­to­rial. “His dad Nigel and my dad were great mates.”

Mr Dolan said: “Dad and Len weren’t just friends. My fa­ther con­sid­ered him a role model, so this is a great hon­our.”

Af­ter a gru­elling but un­for­get­table few days tast­ing the world’s finest wines un­der the tute­lage and scru­tiny of some of the coun­try’s most ex­pe­ri­enced wine judges, Mr Dolan’s ac­cu­racy out­pointed the other 11 schol­ars to win a busi­ness-class trip to Eu­rope, with in­tro­duc­tions to many great wine es­tates.

Not a bad prize, but for Mr Dolan, the real tri­umph was to be ac­cepted in the first place. “I’ve ap­plied for the past three years,” he said, “so to be part of it was a dream come true.

“The week is un­be­liev­able. It’s a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Tu­to­rial was con­ceived by Evans as a way of train­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of wine judges for the Aus­tralian show sys­tem.

He be­lieved the best way to learn about qual­ity was by ex­po­sure to ex­cel­lence.

The prob­lem was that most of the truly great wines are far be­yond the reach of the aver­age wine pro­fes­sional’s wal­let. So Evans col­lected spon­sors to fund a se­ries of tu­tored tast­ings and din­ners show­ing a range of ex­quis­ite wines, in­clud­ing some of the rarest and most ex­pen­sive imag­in­able.

The schol­ars pay noth­ing for this ex­tra­or­di­nary week: wines, food and ac­com­mo­da­tion are cov­ered by spon­sors. Ev­ery year, more than 100 hope­fuls — wine­mak­ers, mar­keters, mer­chants, som­me­liers — ap­ply for 12 places.

Some of Aus­tralia’s top wine ex­perts have been in­volved with the Tu­to­rial from the start, no­tably this news­pa­per’s James Hal­l­i­day, a friend of Evans for 40 years, and Iain Riggs, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief wine­maker of Bro­ken­wood, the Hunter win­ery Hal­l­i­day co-founded in 1970 (those con­nec­tions again).

Since Evans’s death in 2006, Hal­l­i­day and Mr Riggs have steered the event to its cur­rent ex­alted sta­tus: it is, in Hal­l­i­day’s words, “the most ex­clu­sive wine school in the world”.

Evans was never short of am­bi­tion for his many ven­tures, but even he might have been sur­prised by the suc­cess of this one.

“What Len cre­ated with his Tu­to­rial,” Mr Dolan said yes­ter­day, “is one of the Aus­tralian wine in­dus­try’s great­est trea­sures.”

Oth­ers have fol­lowed in their pi­o­neer­ing foot­steps, while Home Hill has grown a na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, in re­cent years reg­u­larly win­ning ma­jor ac­co­lades.

The lat­est of th­ese is a 99-point rat­ing for its 2017 Kelly Re­serve pinot noir in Hal­l­i­day’s Top 100 wines, fea­tured in to­day’s Week- end Aus­tralian Mag­a­zine.

Mr Ben­nett said the score was a won­der­ful fil­lip for a fam­ily con­cern that be­gan as a hunch.

“I saw wine as a com­mod­ity that didn’t have to be har­vested and con­sumed within two or three months; it can be a prod­uct you keep for 10 years,” he said.

“It started as a hobby. I could see a fu­ture so we planted more and put some staff on. My youngest son, Sean, came home to run the vine­yard and it’s grown from there.”

But he cau­tioned those hop­ing to buy from a bot­tle shop, with de­mand out­strip­ping sup­ply even be­fore Hal­l­i­day’s praise.

“We can’t keep up — we’ve stopped whole­sal­ing both the es­tate (pinot noir) and the Kelly’s Re­serve 2017 and so it’s only avail­able at our cel­lar door, restau­rant and over our web­site,” he said.

It is in­dica­tive of boom­ing in­ter­est in the win­ery, at Ranelagh.

Daugh­ter Kelly, af­ter whom the fa­mous pinot is named, man­ages the wine club; Rose­mary runs the wed­ding busi­ness, and Gilli and Paul Lip­scombe are the wine­mak­ers. They have won a swag of awards since the 2014 Kelly’s Re­serve won the Jimmy Wat­son Memo­rial Tro­phy for best wine at the Royal Mel­bourne Wine Show.

MATTHEW NEW­TON

Kelly Ben­nett, af­ter whom the fa­mous pinot Kelly’s Re­serve is named, at Home Hill Win­ery in Ranelagh, Tas­ma­nia, yes­ter­day

CHRIS ELFES

James Hal­l­i­day, left, with Tim Dolan yes­ter­day

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