For the faint-hearted, trying to decipher James Halliday’s Wine Companion can be like trying to crack the Enigma code such is the detail of different symbols and type colours and stars.
But it’s a tried and tested formula that Australia’s leading wine critic has been employing for several editions now and there’s no denying the man knows his stuff.
At 80, with 50 years in the wine game, Halliday is an unmatched authority on every aspect of the wine industry and the annual wine companion is the definitive guide to Australian wine.
For the 2019 edition 9289 wines were tasted and 68 new wineries were included. Fun facts include the number of glasses broken during the tastings, 15, and the approximate volume of the total wine tastings would fill six and a half standard bathtubs.
So how did the Canberra District fare in the latest awards?
In his list of best wineries in the region Halliday again puts Clonakilla at the top, recognising its long track record of excellence. Eden Road Wines, Mount Majura Vineyard, Nick O’Leary Wines and Ravensworth were noted for their high level of consistency for at least three years. Capital Wines, Helm and Lerida Estate also made the three-tier, five star ranking list.
Regionally, Nick Spencer made the cut, as did Coolangatta Estate (Shoalhaven Heads), Cupitt's Winery (Ulladulla) and Centennial Vineyard (Bowral).
While Nick Spencer is out of Gundagai, we’re claiming him as one of ours, getting a mention as one of the best 10 new wineries. Formerly of Eden Road, Halliday hopes Spencer is the “pied piper” who’ll call experienced wine makers to Gundagai. He gives his 2017 Dry Red Blend and the 2017 Tempranillo 95 points.
Nick O’Leary Wines made the list of the best value wineries. “The 2017 Tumbarumba Riesling, 2017 White Rocks Riesling and 2016 Bolaro Shiraz all received 96 points, followed by two wines each on 95 and 94 points respectively. All seven wines received the value rosette. The brightness of the fruit flavours of his wines are the key.”
In the list of the best of the best by variety only Clonakilla’s 2016 Murrumbateman syrah (98 points) and 2016 shiraz viognier (98) made the cut, making them the district’s highest ranked wines. The wine of the year nationally was Duke’s Vineyard 2017 Magpie Hill Reserve riesling out of Western Australia with 99 points.
Other local wines to score well include Eden Road Wines’ 2017 Canberra Riesling (95) and 2017 Tumbarumba Chardonnay (95); Mount Majura Vineyard’s 2017 Canberra District Riesling (95) and 2017 Canberra District Mondeuse (95) - “this has to be one of my finds of the year … it is a wine to drink with a large grin,” says Halliday; Helm’s 2017 Premium Riesling (95); Lark Hill’s 2017 Canberra District Riesling (96); Lerida Estate’s 2017 Cullerin Canberra District Chardonnay (95) and 2016 Canberra District Shiraz Viognier (95); and Ravensworth’s 2017 Riesling (95), 2017 The Grainery (95), 2017 The Tinderry (95), 2016 Estate Murrumbateman Sangiovese (95).
Halliday Wine Companion 2019, by James Halliday, Hardie Grant, $39.99.
The 2018 Canberra International Riesling Challenge, to be held from October 14-20, 2018 has received the highest number of entries in its 18 year history.
More than 540 wines from six countries will compete for Best Wine of the Challenge. There have been record entry levels from Australia and the highest number of international entries in the history of the challenge.
Founded in 2000, the Canberra International Riesling Challenge celebrates the “queen of grapes”, riesling, aiming to improve the quality of riesling available to consumers and to improve consumers’ understanding and appreciation of riesling.
The challenge is the largest single varietal wine show in the southern hemisphere regularly attracting more than 500 entries from the major riesling producing countries of the world.
Entries are judged according to their age and style and they are presented to the judges by growing region so that the distinctive regional characteristics that develop in riesling guide the judging. The best wines from each region are then selected to compete for style, national trophies, and ultimately the Best Wine of the Challenge.
The challenge will be held at Albert Hall on October 14-20.
Fine wine night
Langton’s, one of Australia’s leading wine marketplaces, is offering a rare opportunity to taste more than $15,000 worth of Australia’s most prized wines at its Classification VII event in Canberra on Friday, September 7, at the QT Hotel between 6-9pm.
Celebrating the release of seventh edition of the Langton’s Classification - an internationally renowned ranking of Australia’s finest and rarest wines, the event gives wine lovers the opportunity to sample more than 100 wines, taste from nibbles, and mingle with industry experts including owners, growers and winemakers. Tickets start from $150 and can be purchased at langtons.com.au