7 June 2023

Alternate varieties to take centre stage when nation's premier wine show pours into Canberra

| Katrina Condie

The country’s best of the best wines will be in the spotlight at the National Wine Show of Australia in Canberra in June. Photo: National Wine Show.

The big reds will take a back seat, with more alternate varieties expected to shine at this year’s National Wine Show of Australia.

The event, with judging in Canberra from Monday 5 June to Thursday 8 June, will showcase Australia’s best wines across 42 classes. And this year a few new varieties have been invited to the table.

Wines must have been awarded a gold or silver medal at one of 32 accredited shows around the country to qualify. Those shows include the Sydney Royal Wine Show and Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, plus competitions in highly regarded wine regions such as the Margaret River, Barossa and Yarra Valley.

While Pinot Noir, Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon usually dominate the national awards, chair of judges David Bicknell says the number of entries in the blended red class has grown significantly.

“There’s certainly a lot more non-mainstream varieties that have qualified this year, particularly reds,” he says.

“The number of alternative varieties is quite large and that class has dramatically grown, which is symptomatic of more people planting different grape varieties and producing wines of a much higher quality.

“In the red varietal class we’re seeing Tempranillo, Malbec, Nero d’Avola, which is a Sicilian wine, and more Sangiovese. This is encouraging because these are the varieties that do well in warmer, drier climates, so it makes sense we are seeing a larger number of entries and better quality wines.”

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David says on the back of some cooler growing conditions across Australia, there has also been an increase in the number of white sparkling wines making the cut this year.

Show chair Andy Gregory says 960 wines have been entered into the 2023 show, with 52 new vineyards qualifying.

He says it’s fantastic to see winemakers from all over the country represented, whether they’re producing five tonnes or 50,000 tonnes.

“The majority of entries still come from the capital city wine shows, but I think the regional shows are better represented this year,” Andy says. “We’re seeing more smaller producers, which is a really healthy thing.”

While there are 25,000 producers in Australia, about 80 per cent of the country’s wine is made by the top 20 or 30 producers. Pushing the National Wine Show judging dates back from November to June allows producers to enter the qualifying shows and give successful exhibitors time to enter the Australia-wide event.

Andy says the date change is warmly welcomed by the industry and the show will continue in late May or early June each year.

Man with wine

National Wine Show chair Andy Gregory is pleased to see an increase in entries this year. Photo: National Wine Show.

This year’s exhibitors will be hoping to take home the coveted Prime Minister’s Trophy for Champion Wine of Show, won by Sutton Grange Winery’s 2019 Fairbank Syrah in 2022.

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt will present the top gong on behalf of the Prime Minister on 16 June, along with other winners. Minister Watt will also be among the VIPs invited to sample the winning wines at a special tasting event on 17 June.

This is only the second year the Prime Minister’s trophy has been up for grabs.

“It’s the highest accolade that can be given to any wine in the country. To come through regional, state and national wine shows and be named the most successful is an incredible achievement,” Andy says.

“Even to qualify for the National Wine Show is a great accolade already. If a wine medals, it shows it’s right up there with the best, but to win a trophy or top gong is huge.”

Producers will also be vying for the Len Evans Memorial Trophy for White Wine of Show and the James Halliday Trophy for Red Wine of Show.

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David and 16 judges from around the country will spend two days examining the entries including: sparkling wines (white, red and rose); white table wines (Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and blended varieties); red table wines (Pinot Noir, Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and blended varieties); sweet white table wines; rose table wines; and fortified wines (Apera, Sweet Fortified White, Vintage Fortified Red Port Style, Tawny, Topaque and Muscat).

David says the expert judges are looking for “detail and quality” in every winning wine.

“We’re after balance of flavour. That is the key to all good wine. And refreshment is a big part of it as well,” he says.

“We’re looking for wines with complexity and depth, and we often talk about detail – we don’t want a manufactured white cotton sheet, we want beautifully hand-stitched sheets where the detail and quality blows you away.”

All wines are poured out of sight of judges to ensure utmost impartiality and objectivity. Following blind tastings of each class, trophies are decided by a ballot of all judges. Only gold medal-winning wines from their classes are eligible for trophy judging.

The National Wine Show has been a highlight on the Australian wine industry calendar since it began in 1975.

Original Article published by Katrina Condie on Riotact.

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