David Pike this week finds himself becoming a little more familiar with verdelho.

I RECENTLY attended James Talijancich’s 7th annual Vintage Verdelho Tasting in the surroundings of the Vines Resort. He talked on a range of subjects – from the dry white styles the tasting was to tackle that afternoon, to the styles produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira and the rewards to be found in the liqueur fortified styles.

The annual tasting looked at 16 primarily Australian verdelhos, although there was a wine from Wild Horse Vineyards located in the central coast region of California available to taste. The interactive nature of the tasting ensured that those invited to give their comments needed to ensure they were ‘on the money’ in terms of their appraisal of the wines. The tasting was an educational experience for me, as I had not previously had an opportunity to taste through an extensive selection of verdelho wines.

For the record my top five, in no particular order, were from Capel Vale, Tullochs, Talijancich and Chestnut Grove (after seeing a second bottle) from the 2001 vintage, and a delightful example of an aged 1991 Talijancich Verdelho.

From the locals

Moondah Brook Unwooded Chardonnay 2002 rrp $14.95 rating 17/20 points

I am the first to admit that I haven’t been the biggest supporter of unwooded chardonnay, but was more than pleasantly surprised when I came across this bright number from the Houghton’s team. The fruit is being sourced from the cooler regions around Pemberton and Mount Baker and, for a wine under $15, this is over-delivering. You will discover enticing notes of passionfruit, white peaches and some citrus aromas, before finding a palate alive with vibrant fruit flavours that include some citrus, nectarine and a touch of melon notes. There is plenty of lively fruit with dynamic weight and persistence of finish.

Omrah Sauvignon Blanc 2002 rrp $15.95 rating 18.5/20 points

What a stunning wine … another absolute bargain. At this price, fill the fridge. Plantagenet is really kicking some goals with this range of wines. The wine, which is bottled under a Stelvin Closure, leaps out of the glass with enticing aromas, passionfruit notes with touches of gooseberry and a hint of lychee aroma. On the palate you are greeted with a mass of lively zippy fruit that has plenty of flavour, palate weight and complementary acidity. Do yourself a favour.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2001 rrp $34.95 18.50/20 points

I like the direction that Vasse Felix is heading with the style of this wine. The refined use of oak and integration of seriously good fruit combine to have produced the best Heytesbury chardonnay to date.

The wine appeals with aromas of ripe stone fruits with touches of mandarin zest, spice, nutmeg and nougat. On the palate the wine really begins to show its class, with ripe nectarine and white peaches and an underlying zesty mandarin citrus flavour. The backbone of the wine seems to be the acidity rather than the oak that builds across the palate, leaving you with a long finish showing real persistence.

WA Royal Show Wine Awards

Most successful exhibitor: McWilliams Wines.

Most successful WA exhibitor: Gralyn Wines.

Best WA wine of show: Plantagenet Omrah Sauvignon Blanc 2002.

Best dry red: Grant Burge Meshach 1999.

Best white table wine: Bankside Bastard Hill Chardonnay.

Best WA dry red table wine: Houghton Jack Mann 1999.

Best WA white table wine: Plantagenet Omrah Sauvignon Blanc 2002.

Most successful WA exhibitor under 300 tonnes: Gralyn Wines.

Sparkling wine: Bay of Fires Pinot Chardonnay 1999.

Sparkling red: Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 1995.

Best dry red blends: Jacobs Creek Premium Shiraz Cabernet 2000.

Best fortified: Morris Old Premuim Liqueur Muscat.

Best dry white blends: Houghtons White Burgundy 1993.

Best sweet wine: Mt Pleasant Botrytis Semillon 1999.

Best current vintage dry white: Jacobs Creek Riesling 2002.

Best chardonnay: Bankside Bastard Hill Chardonnay 2000.

Best semillon: Allandale Hunter Semillon 1998.

Best sauvignon blanc: Plantagenet Omrah Sauvignon Blanc 2002.

Best verdelho: Chestnut Grove 2002.

Best early drinking red: Ryecroft Winery Rosemount Shiraz Cabernet 2002.

Best shiraz: Grant Burge Meshach 1999.

Best cabernet: Leasingham Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon 1999.

No pinot awarded

Best merlot: Tatachilla Clarendon Merlot 2000.

Best 2000 dry red: Majella Cabernet Sauvignon.

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