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WA’S final wine show for 2002 was held last week. The Qantas Wine Show of Western Australia Mt Barker attracted a record number of entries, with a 23 per cent increase in the number of wines entered into the show. Chief judge James Halliday, together with experienced panel leaders Vanya Cullen and Zar Brooks, presided over 925 wines from 175 exhibitors.

This year the show celebrated its 25th anniversary – a long way from the event that began as ‘section 11’ in the Mt Baker and District Agricultural Show and attracted only a couple of dozen wines.

Pam McGregor described the show’s successful growth over the 25 years in her address to the 130 people gathered in the Plantagenet District Hall for the gala dinner (catered for by the Hospitality Department of the Great Southern TAFE) and awards presentation. She explained that it was in the early 1980s when the committee decided that it would be beneficial to introduce an interstate judge. This posed the problem, however, of how to get the judge over from the east. The searches for a sponsor led Pam to a chance meeting with former manager of TAA Airlines in WA. It was a relationship that has led to Qantas assuming the role of major sponsor. Apart from helping to transport the judges from the east, the Qantas link has provided the winner of wine of the show with a trip for two to Paris.

James Halliday used his address to suggest that the future of the wine show system is with regional shows. James no longer judges at the capital city shows, with the exception of that in Canberra, which has much more defined entry requirements. Too many of the shows are open to company wines that are not indicative to the final bottled product, he said. Such an example has been highlighted with the confusion of the recent Jimmy Watson award and also with Divine Magazines’ shiraz challenge, when a wine entered in the tasting was very different to the bottled product released some months later.

James’s address also focused on the strong regional characters within the wines submitted. The show served notice just how well Great Southern riesling and shiraz are performing, while the Margaret River cabernet-based wines were very strong. The Swan Valley showed yet again its fortified strength.

A breakdown of the gold medal results at the show gave Margaret River 20 (16 red and four white) and the Great Southern 12 (six red and six white).

Judges’ comments suggested that many of the white wines showed “good fruit concentration and varietal flavours of a cooler vintage, however attention needed to be paid to the handling of wines as pinking and oxidation was rampant in many of the classes”.

Comments surrounding the red wine classes varied from the negative (‘wines were too extractive and tannic”, “problems with volatile acidity”).

And what would a wine show be without inviting Brett and his very close mate dekkera, who popped up in a number of classes. However there were many positive comments surrounding the red wines, such as “standout wines consistent quality a pleasure to judge” and “a showcase of truly exciting regionally expressive wines, world class” in reference to the shiraz 1999 and older.

A close look at the results makes it very hard not to single out the stunning Ferngrove 2002 Cossack Riesling from the Frankland region. This wine showed a dynamic flavour profile and delightful palate weight. It is a must buy. Entertaining winemaker John Griffiths was very pleased with the award and suggested that: “Ferngrove is only just beginning to hit its straps and will produce more exciting wines in the near future”.

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