Clare Wine Show
A couple of weeks ago the Clare Wine Show judging took place, with me chairing one panel and the other panel chaired by Glenn James, a former senior winemaker at Fosters.
Judging at wine shows is one of the pleasures of wine business, a pursuit that allows us to meet fellow wine professionals, to improve our palates, increase our knowledge, and to contribute to the wine community. The only downside is the tendency of some Agricultural Societies to make a killing on running shows, without investing back in the wine industry, which supplies free labour from judges, stewards, and wine committees. At the regional shows this is less of an issue, as the shows are run by the local wine regional associations, and usually take only 1.5 – 2 days of judging.
Not surprisingly, Riesling was the star of the show at Clare. An exhibition class (meaning the wines did not need to be currently available) of Riesling yielded a big haul of golds, with beautiful wines from 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2006 showing the delicious potential of Clare Valley Riesling to age gracefully. In a close run thing, Knappstein Wines Ackland Vineyard Riesling 2005 took out the trophy, and went on to take out the trophy for Best Wine of Show. Not far behind was a lovely 2001 Watervale Riesling from Jim Barry, a wine that would have sold for around $20 on release.
Another highlight for me was seeing a very smart 2010 Tempranillo get a gold, a wine that I later learned was from Crabtree, and made by the talented Kerri Thompson, aka KT. Crabtree went on to win the trophy for Best Small Producer, while Jim Barry took out Best Exhibitor, their strong showing in Rieslings matched by a trophy for their ‘3 Little Pigs’ Cabernet Shiraz Malbec from 2010, a super fresh, clean, and vibrant young wine.
One interesting, though not exciting class, was the ‘Dry White, other than Riesling’ from 2011. Interesting because there is no clear ‘second best’ white varietal in Clare. Putting aside the obvious question, (Does Clare need another white grape?) the wines we saw did nothing to suggest that Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Viognier, or Chenin Blanc are the answer. The Chardonnays were bland, the Gewurzes lacked varietal character, the Semillon was OK, and they can be good from Clare (eg Mt Horrocks) but hard to sell, Viognier should work climatically but is even harder to sell, and the lone Chenin Blanc was…oh, what was it again, that’s right, forgettable.
One variety that didn’t feature in this class, but no doubt will in the future, was Fiano. Several growers have planted Fiano, including Jeffrey Grosset, who has planted a couple of hectares on very bony, low vigour soil at Watervale. Grosset’s hope is that Fiano, and his experimental plantings of Aglianico, will retain high acidity as they ripen in Clare’s semi-continental climate. I reckon it’s a fair bet that his first Fiano, hopefully from 2012, will see the variety leapfrog the other contenders for Clare’s leading other white grape.