Clonakilla riesling wows Canberra wine show judges in vintage of a lifetime

Clonakilla riesling wows Canberra wine show judges in vintage of a lifetime

Clonakilla Wines' 2015 riesling was named wine of the show against strong competition from "the vintage of a lifetime" at the weekend's Canberra and Region Wine Show.

Winning winemaker Tim Kirk said the current district vintage was proving a "belter" for Murrumbateman and Canberra district winemakers with Mother Nature balancing the books after three "challenging" wet years from 2010 to 2012.

Winner: Clonakilla chief winemaker and CEO Tim Kirk with his riesling.

Winner: Clonakilla chief winemaker and CEO Tim Kirk with his riesling.Credit:David Reist

"Mother Nature has given us a couple of belters in 2013 and 2015," he said. "2014 was pretty good as well. This has been a marvellous year; we have good quality and good quantities to go with it."

Pioneering district winemaker Ken Helm, whose rieslings took out a hat-trick of gold medals on Friday night, agreed.

Winemaker Ken Helm says 2015 is "the vintage of a lifetime".

Winemaker Ken Helm says 2015 is "the vintage of a lifetime".Credit:Jeffrey Chan

"2015 is the vintage of a lifetime," he said.

The Canberra show was one of two significant regional wine contests to announce results over the weekend.

The other was the Murrumbateman-based Australian Cool Climate Wine Show which delivered three major trophies, including The Parasol Trophy for best wine of show to Shaw Vineyard Estate for its 2015 riesling.

Vigneron Graeme Shaw confirmed 2015 was shaping up as a remarkable year for the cool climate vineyards of the region.

"It is the best season we have ever had," he said. "The whites have been excellent but the reds are even better."

The difference between the two shows is that while the Canberra competition was restricted to regional wineries, the Murrumbateman-based show was open to all comers.

Regional producers held their end up well with five of the 13 trophies being awarded to wines produced within 250km of Murrumbateman.

Canberra's equivalent event, The National Wine Show of Australia, is to be held in November with entries due to close on October 2.

Only wines that have won a medal at a recognised wine show, such as the Canberra event on the weekend, are eligible to enter.

Mr Kirk said that while Clonakilla usually only entered the regional show that policy might be revisited in view of Friday night's results.

"We may, or may not, enter [the national show]," he said. "It is tempting given we have such a quality riesling."

Clonakilla's signature wine, its shiraz viognier, is not entered in shows. The vineyard relies on published assessments by professional critics, word of mouth and the strong reputation the product has developed over the years to let it sell itself.

Mr Kirk said the judges had "raved" over the quality of the wines at the Canberra show.

"I have no doubt that the wines being produced in this region stand up to the best [in their categories] from anywhere," he said.

Mr Helm agreed: "Canberra rieslings are now recognised alongside the traditional regions for the wine, like Clare Valley and Eden Valley.

"That recognition is reflected in record sales of the district's wine, increased vineyard planting of the [riesling] variety and demand from the consumer."

Interest in the variety, which has re-emerged as a major market player over the past two decades after being shouldered aside by, first, chardonnays and then sauvignon blancs, continues to evolve.

October 16 is to be Friday Riesling Day at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra with special seminars on riesling appreciation. This is a part of the latest Canberra International Riesling Challenge, to commence on October 13.

More than 500 rieslings from across the world are to be judged by a six-person panel headed by New Zealand's John Belsham. The challenge has been running for 15 years.