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Touchdown for the Rocket man

By Friday 31 May 2024June 11th, 2024No Comments

An Adelaide Hills Chardonnay described by Australia’s top wine judges as “an explosion of flavour on the palate” took out the nation’s top wine award in front of an audience including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club last night.

Murdoch Hills 2022 Rocket Chardonnay has won the National Wine Show of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Trophy for Champion Wine of Show, narrowly beating a Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon to claim the prestigious award.

National Wine Show of Australia chair of judges Matt Harrop said the Rocket Chardonnay, from a family-owned vineyard in Oakbank, was a beautifully made wine that stood out from the first round of tasting through to the trophy judging.

“The feedback from all 12 judges was just how much flavour this wine has,” he says.

“To get a Chardonnay with such powerful and precise flavours is due to a combination of a great vineyard that’s perfectly tended, with sensibly grown grapes and sensitive winemaking. It’s a great, great wine.”

As winner of the Len Evans Memorial Trophy for White Wine of Show, Murdoch Hills 2022 Rocket Chardonnay battled it out for the Prime Minister’s Trophy against the James Halliday Red Wine of Show, Devil’s Lair’s 2022 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

“The Devil’s Lair has everything you could want in a young Cabernet – a lot of flavour, lovely colour, perfect aromatics,” Matt says.

“If you were going to say, ‘here’s an example of how good Australian Cabernet can be’, you don’t need to go further than this wine.”

Devil’s Lair ended the dominance of fellow Margaret River winery Xanadu, which has taken out the top Cabernet trophy in the nation’s leading wine show for the past nine years.

To be eligible to enter the National Wine Show of Australia, presented by Endeavour Group, wines must have won a gold or silver medal at one of 32 qualifying capital city or regional shows, meaning its winners have been through one of the most comprehensive wine assessment processes in the world.

South Australia leads trophies

This year, 952 wines representing 236 Australian wineries competed in the Canberra-based show, run by the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society.

Of the 23 trophy winners, eight were from South Australia, seven from Victoria, four from Western Australia, three from New South Wales and one from Tasmania.

Victoria’s De Bortoli Wines made the most trips to the podium, picking up the Shiraz Trophy for its 2022 Heathcote Handcrafted Shiraz, the Alternate Red Blends Trophy for its 2022 Ancient Soils Tempranillo Touriga, and the Rose Trophy for the De Bortoli 2023 Rose Rose.

Matt Harrop says the five wines competing for the Sparking Trophy represented one of the strongest sparkling line-ups in the show’s nearly 50-year history.

“It’s unlikely we’ll ever see such a strong class again because a lot of the grapes that were going into sparkling are now being made into table wine. Sparkling can be more costly and time-consuming to produce as it needs longer in the bottle before going to market,” Matt says.

Among the sparkling finalists were three entries from Tasmania’s House of Arras, including the winner of the Sparkling Trophy, the House of Arras 2015 Grand Vintage.

Matt says the varietal trophies were among this year’s most exciting classes, with the White Varietal Trophy going to an unconventional and daring French varietal never before seen in the national awards.

Winner Crittenden Wines’ 2018 Cri de Coeur Sous Voile Savagnin follows a traditional process from France’s Jura region in which wine is aged under a layer of yeast, allowing it to slowly oxidise.

“It’s quite confronting as it’s not fruit-based but an oxidised style of wine. When done properly, it is a thirst-making, briny, salty, olivey thing with beautiful acidity and amazing length,” Matt says.

“People can expect to be totally freaked out by the Savagnin.

“It doesn’t smell or taste like your traditional white wine; it’s more akin to a fino sherry with a powerful, piercing palate.

“Crittenden has produced an absolutely outstanding example of this variety. It’s a really cool wine and I’m thrilled it won the White Varietal Trophy.”

Red Varietal class grows 20 percent

The Red Varietal Trophy went to Bleasdale Vineyards’ 2022 Generations Malbec, in a class that saw entry numbers up 20 percent on last year.

“The growth of the varietals classes reflects the evolution of Australian winemaking,” Matt says.

“With the impact of climate change, many winemakers are switching from more traditional styles such as Cabernet and Chardonnay to Mediterranean styles that need much less water and can thrive in the drier parts of Australia.

“We’ll see more and more whites such as Albarino, Vermentino, Gruner Veltliner, Fiano and Arneis, and reds such as Tempranillo, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Malbec, as these non-mainstream vines begin to mature.”

The Grenache Trophy, won by Chalk Hills Wines’ 2022 Alpha Crucis Old Vine Grenache, demonstrated the change in fortunes of this red grape variety, once considered a vineyard workhorse best used to bolster fortified wines.

“Australian Grenache is in such a wonderful place at the moment,” says Matt.

“Over the past 15 years or so people have started recognising that these old vines, especially in warmer areas like McLaren Vale and the Barossa, if pruned and farmed sensitively, can make extraordinary wines.

“Three gold medals were awarded in this class and it was an incredibly close fight for the trophy.”

Pinnacle of Australian winemaking

National Wine Show chair Andy Gregory says the 23 trophy winners, as well as the 684 wines that missed out on a trophy but won medals, represented the pinnacle of Australian winemaking.

“The National Wine Show shines a spotlight on the unique characteristics of Australian wines and the distinct regions in which they are made. It’s a celebration of provenance, authenticity and quality,” Andy says.

“An award at the National Wine Show equates to increased sales and brand profile for winemakers, and the winners’ catalogue is the ultimate buyers’ guide for people looking to drink or cellar the very best Australian wines.

“The great news is that wines of this calibre are affordable – you can pick up some of this year’s trophy winners for under $20, with several others retailing for under $40.”

Top trophies

Prime Minister’s Trophy for Champion Wine of Show
Murdoch Hill 2022 Rocket Chardonnay

James Halliday Trophy for Red Wine of Show
Devil’s Lair 2022 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

Len Evans Memorial Trophy for White Wine of Show
Murdoch Hill 2022 Rocket Chardonnay

White Wine Trophies

Blended White Trophy
Once & Well 2023 Frankie Garden Margaret River Classic White Blend

White Varietal Trophy
Crittenden Wines 2018 Cri de Coeur Sous Voile Savagnin

Chardonnay Trophy
Murdoch Hill 2022 Rocket Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc Trophy
Saint & Scholar 2023 Graduates Sauvignon Blanc

Semillon Trophy
Tyrrell’s Vineyards 2017 Vat 1 Semillon

Riesling Trophy
Kirrihill Wines 2023 Regional Series Clare Valley Riesling

Pinot Gris/Grigio Trhopy
Tempus Two 2023 Copper Pinot Grigio

Red Wine Trophies

Alternate Red Blends Trophy
De Bortoli 2022 Ancient Soils Tempranillo Touriga

Cabernet Blends Trophy
Evans & Tate 2021 Redbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot

Shiraz Blends Trophy
Devil’s Baie 2022 Syrah+

Grenache Blends Trophy
Lloyd Brothers 2022 Estate Blend GSM

Red Varietal Trophy
Bleasdale Vineyards 2022 Generations Malbec

Cabernet Trophy
Devil’s Lair Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

Shiraz Trophy
De Bortoli 2022 Heathcote Handcrafted Shiraz

Grenache Trophy
Chalk Hill Wines 2022 Alpha Crucis Old Vine Grenache

Pinot Trophy
Giant Steps 2022 Applejack Vineyard Pinot Noir

Special Trophies

Fortified Trophy
Morris Wines Old Premium Rare Topaque

Rose Trophy
De Bortoli 2023 Rose Rose

Sweet White Trophy
Berton Vineyards 2019 Reserve Botrytis Semillon

Sparkling Trophy
House of Arras 2015 Grand Vintage

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