22/08/2006 - 22:00

Awards sparkle despite missing gold

22/08/2006 - 22:00


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The annual Sheraton Perth West Australian Wine Awards were at their glittering best last week as the 29th instalment recognised the best of the state’s wine industry.

Awards sparkle despite missing gold

The annual Sheraton Perth West Australian Wine Awards were at their glittering best last week as the 29th instalment recognised the best of the state’s wine industry.

This year, a record number of producers put their wares up for tasting. In 2006, 547 different wines were swirled, sniffed and spat in order to sift out 15 silver and gold medal winners.

But the numbers don’t always add up as expected.

This year the panel of judges, led from the front by esteemed wine industry veteran John Hanley (this is his 29th consecutive Sheraton awards), didn’t award all classes.

No gold or silver medals were awarded in the sweet white-table wine or the dry red-pinot noir categories. And no wine was thought worthy enough for gold in the rosé, merlot or sparkling wine classes either.

These omissions and the comments by guest judges, Michael Brajkovich and Robin Day, reinforced the state’s reputation for excellence in chardonnay and cabernet, our new-found love affair with more aromatic varieties, and the lingering, tenuous grip on all else.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Brajkovich, a noted wine expert from New Zealand, said: “Western Australia is consistently producing some excellent riesling with the right balance of fruit concentration, citrus notes and length being their hallmarks.”

Later, to announce the Ashbrook Estate 2006 the riesling silver medal winner and Houghton’s 2002 the gold medal winner, Mr Brajkovich said: “It is up to these producers and the wine industry to now work to capture the attention of the consumer for this consistently underrated variety.”

While some may prefer to take a New Zealander’s comments about sauvignon blanc with some caution, Mr Brajkovich said the best in the class still demonstrated WA’s ability to get the variety’s characteristics right.

No surprises that the brand new releases dominated this category, with many of the entrants yet to hit retailers’ shelves. Nonetheless, silver went to Edwards Winery for the 2006 and the gold went to Joseph River Estate for its 2006 offering.

Semillon, verdelho and the blends were all given a passing grade, but the most praise was saved for the chardonnay class, described by the judges as “most impressive”.

An affinity, but not over-exuberance, with oak was applauded but Mr Brajkovich described the class as “portraying of ripe fruit, developed and balanced use of oak, and fine structure”.

Wills Domain continued its impressive run at the Sheraton awards, with its 2005 awarded silver, while the team at The Growers was more than delighted when the 2004 chardonnay shared gold.

The win for The Growers was an exceptional result, especially when the calibre of wines and the number of big name companies competing are considered.

But just as the significance of the Yallingup winery’s win was sinking in, 2004 chardonnay was awarded the chairman’s award for the best individual entry in the show.

The 2004 chardonnay should be available mid next month.

When industry doyen Robin Day took to the stage to address the crowd and hand out the medals for the reds, there was a palpable sense of surprise when no pinots, merlots, or rosés made the grade for gold medals.

“The first generation pinot stock which dominates the plantings in Western Australia is not capable of producing wines of colour and flavour to rank amongst pinots of other areas,” Mr Day said.

The news was better in the cabernet class, however, which was applauded for its finesse and structure.

Described as one of the strongest in the field, silver went to Houghton’s 2001 cabernet while Margaret River’s Clairault 2002 snared gold.

WA’s reputation as a destination for shiraz improved markedly with Harvey River Bridge Estate taking silver for its 2005 and Di Miller’s Xabregas winning another gold medal for the 2004 shiraz.

Among the blends it was a tale of the smaller producers, with Sinclair Wines winning silver for its cab/shiraz blend of 2005 and Windance Estate taking gold for its 2004 cab/merlot.

And it came as no great surprise, but overall delight, when James Talijancich again climbed the stage to accept another gold for his non-vintage muscat – a true benchmark of its class. Jane Brook’s liquor verdelho took home silver.

When the dust had settled the event was a resounding success for the local wine industry, proving that WA producers are at the forefront of innovation and ingenuity in the sector.

There were accolades for the old (Houghton’s claimed the most successful producer prize) and for the new (in the successes of Windows Estate, Sinclair and Stone Gully) but the real winners will be the consumers.


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