Wine judge Ben Edwards seeks freshness, well-balanced oak, and not too much intrusive winemaking. Photo: Melissa Adams
The tiny Half Moon Wines near Braidwood took out the top gong at the Canberra Regional Wine Show last week, winning champion wine for its 2010 riesling.
The wines at Half Moon are made by Alex McKay, who also won gold for his own Collector Reserve Shiraz 2006 made in Murrumbateman (although bronze for the 2011 vintage of the same wine).
Half Moon makes wine with minimal mechanisation and chemical use and in small batches. On its website, it only offers one 2011 wine, a riesling, with no wines available from the 2012 vintage. Chairman of judges Ben Edwards says the judges were taken by surprise to discover their top wine was from Braidwood. Made by a very good winemaker, the riesling has great tension, purity, slatey minerality and the pure, precise fruit that is characteristic of the region, he says.
Half Moon's win is the first time in many years the trophy for champion wine at the Canberra show has not gone to a shiraz - other than in 2009, when it was awarded jointly, to a shiraz and Ken Helm's riesling.
The difficulties of the 2011 vintage, when Canberra winemakers were hit hard by rain and resulting disease, are reflected in the show results, where most of the top wines were from further afield. Numbers were also down, with 188 entries, compared with 266 last year.
Hungerford Hill won the trophy for best red and best shiraz. Hungerford is a Hunter Valley maker but the grapes for its winning shiraz were grown at Tumbarumba, well south of Canberra. Best chardonnay also went to a Tumbarumba wine - won by Barwang Estate's 2010 842. Barwang is owned by McWilliams.
The Canberra show is the only one in which the region's most famous winemaker, Clonakilla, enters wines. Tim Kirk enters as a show of support, although he keeps his flagship wines out. His 2011 viognier won gold, along with his 2012 riesling, not long in the bottle. This was one of three golds among the 2012 rieslings in the show, with the judges commenting on ''the lack of generosity, the greenness and high levels of acidity'' in the class more widely. Edwards says Clonakilla's O'Riada Shiraz was the unlucky one, with debate among judges about whether it should win gold.
Nick Spencer at Eden Road had stand-out success with his shiraz, winning gold across the board with four different shirazes, made from grapes grown at Murrumbateman, Gundagai and the Hilltops, and Edwards says Spencer's success demonstrates what judges are looking for - freshness, well-balanced oak and not too much ''intrusive'' winemaking.
Asked about the limited success of wines from Canberra, he said it had been a tough three years after a top vintage in 2009. But the best winemakers had made some lovely wines that relied more on purity and elegance than power.
Half Moon 2010, Braidwood (top riesling, top white, show champion)
Centennial Reserve 2012 924, Southern Highlands
Four Winds 2012
Helm Classic Dry 2011
Wily Trout 2012, Hall
Barwang Estate 2010 842, Tumbarumba (top chardonnay)
Echelon 2010 Armchair Critic, Tumbarumba
Barwang Estate 2006 842, Tumbarumba
Other white varieties
Lerida Estate 2012 Pinot Grigio, Lake George (top in class)
Clonakilla 2011 Viognier
Coolangatta Estate 2006 Semillon, Shoalhaven
Coolangatta Estate 2005 Semillon, Shoalhaven
Hungerford Hill 2010 Tumbarumba Classic, Tumbarumba (top shiraz, top red)
Eden Road 2011 (top Canberra shiraz)
Mount Majura 2011
Nick O'Leary 2011
Eden Road 2010 the Long Road
Eden Road 2010 Gundagai, Gundagai
Eden Road 2010 Hilltops, Hilltops
Collector Reserve 2006
Hungerford Hill 2009 Hilltops, Hilltops (top cabernet sauvignon)
Other red varieties
Mount Majura 2010 Graciano (top in class)
Capital Wines 2011 Ambassador Tempranillo
Centennial NV Blanc de Blanc, Southern Highlands (top sparkling)
Centennial 2011 Finale Late Autumn
Barwang Estate 2012 Granite Track Riesling