Six Nations Wine Challenge winners

Xanadu winemaker Glen Goodall (Photo: Margaret River website)

As this year’s chairman, and the Australian judge, it was my pleasure to present the awards for the 2017 Six Nations Wine Challenge last week.

The awards dinner was held in the splendidly refurbished ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney.

It was a marvellous night, not because Australia did all that well, but because the wines and food were superb and, well, it is a great and unique competition.

As my colleague (and New Zealand’s judge) Bob Campbell MW has already related, New Zealand did extremely well, and indeed is on a roll in recent years.

Australia also did quite well, despite bringing home few trophies and winning few of the classes. We won only two of the 16 trophies and two of the classes on aggregate points. But we did pretty well, coming third in the overall tally after New Zealand and the USA, and beating South Africa, Canada and Chile.

One of our trophies was for chardonnay, the wine being Xanadu Reserve 2015, from Margaret River. This wine went on to win trophies for best white wine and the ultimate accolade, best wine of show.

Furthermore, Xanadu’s second-ranked chardonnay, the Stevens Road 2015, also scored a double-gold medal. Australia rightly excelled at chardonnay: Dawson & James 2015 (Tasmania) and Tarrawarra Estate MDB 2015 (Yarra Valley) also won double-golds, while Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard 2015 (Adelaide Hills) won a gold.

Australia’s second trophy was for Blue Pyrenees Estate 2013 (best non-Bordeaux red blend).

Shiraz was one of the strongest classes of the show, and the trophy went to a Hawke’s Bay wine: Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2014. Australia won as many awards as New Zealand, which won the aggregate for the class, but that wasn’t enough to thwart the Kiwi surge. We scored two double-golds, with Penfolds RWT 2014 and Seppelt St Peters 2014, while golds went to Shaw + Smith 2015, The Lane Vineyard Block 14 2015, and Geoff Hardy’s Pertaringa The Yeoman 2015.

Canada was the surprise package in shiraz, winning four medals including the runner-up and a double-gold. Too cold for full-bodied reds? No way!

Australia also did well in pinot noir, but again we were pipped by New Zealand for the trophy and the class aggregate. The winning wine was Villa Maria Taylors Pass 2014, an outstanding pinot. Australia had the runner-up (Gala Estate Reserve 2014 from Tasmania), a double-gold (Stonier’s Stonier Family Vineyard 2015) and three golds: Bay Of Fires 2015, Yabby Lake Block 6 2015, and Bream Creek Reserve 2014.

Guests on Wednesday night were able to taste the 16 class trophy winners with their dinner. As a judge, I always find it interesting to see the wines again in a different context, and among my favorites on the night were the Villa Maria pinot and especially the trophy cabernet sauvignon, which was the USA’s Col Solare 2014, which I’d assumed was a Napa Valley wine until I read that Col Solare is a partnership in Washington State between Chateau Ste Michelle and Tuscany’s famous Antinori family.

It’s a wine of statuesque presence, full body and sumptuous texture. Like many of the best Napa Valley cabs, it managed terrific concentration and ripeness without sacrificing its varietal signature. Looking back through my notes from the judging I rated it second, my top wine being Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 2013, the eventual runner-up. Stags Leap is of course from the Napa Valley. It reinforced my view that the Napa Valley is the best region in the world for pure cabernet sauvignon red wines. It’s a tragedy that the region is in great peril from raging wildfires as I write this.

It’s not that the Aussies were disgraced. We always do well in cabernet, but since the USA joined the Six Nations five years ago, we have had to move aside and share the accolades with the Americans. We won the most medals but still didn’t win the class or the trophy. We had five medals: double-golds went to Grace Farm Reserve 2013, Brown Brothers Patricia 2012, and golds to Oakridge 864 Winery Block 2015, Fraser Gallop Estate Parterre 2013 and Flowstone Queen of the Earth 2012.

Full results are at the Six Nations Wine Challenge website.

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