2011 Sydney Royal Wine Show - Exhibitor's Tasting

Olympic Park, Homebush

Tasted February 18, 2011 by graemeg with 817 views


At Sydney’s Olympic Park, I have three and a half hours to get through the 2300 wines entered in the 2011 Sydney Royal Wine Show as part of the Exhibitors Tasting, before heading into the city for the annual Wine Communicators Trophy Winners lunch.
Riedel Overture glasses are a very satisfactory tasting vessel; all wines are at room temperature (20ºC) which makes me a little hesitant about accurate assessment of the whites, and we just help ourselves and open as required. Haven’t the screwcaps speeded up this process? I tried to taste in the ‘traditional’ order, which meant skipping between commerical, varietal, premium, named-vineyard classes to avoid mixing my whites, reds, rieslings, pinots, into an unsuitable sequence. My tastings were generally confined to medal-winners or anything that I saw that I wanted to taste at an age when you usually don’t get the chance. Medals won are noted, just for interest. Overall medal rate for the show was around 43%, golds were 6%. (ie. 14% of medals were golds.) Bottles were wearing wine-show labels, so a lot of cross-referencing to the catalogue was required to identify the wine, not to mention walking a couple of kilometres around the room to get to everything. And perusing the catalogue at leisure later, there was plenty of interest that I missed.
All wines are bottled if not yet for sale; the Sydney show no-longer accepts ‘unfinished’ wines (ie barrel/tank samples) for judging.

Flight 1 (39 notes)

2010 Jim Barry Riesling Watervale Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Watervale
{screwcap} Youthful nose of slate & lemon. It’s surprisingly light-bodied on the palate, with bathpowder & musk flavours, just medium acidity, and not much presence beyond the mid-palate. Simple and straightforward.
2010 Leo Buring Riesling Leonay Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
Silver medal. {screwcap, 12.5%} Coded DWN17. Sweet citrus and green apple fruit. Attractive. Tight youthful palate that’s powdery, chalky, musky. Light-medium bodied, but feels all tightly packed in. Distinct presence on the mid-palate; almost dense, despite its lightness. Dry wine. Medium-long finish. Should age well (bit of a given, considering the pedigree). Interesting wine that avoids just being a blast of citrus.
2010 Jim Barry Riesling The Lodge Hill Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
Trophy winner. {screwcap} Youthful. Spring water, limes and slate on the nose. Terrific acidity on the palate, zippy and zinging and other z-words, and carrying the citric fruits along in high style. Really gets the saliva flowing. It’s medium-bodied, with quite a depth of citric flavours, quite an even palate, and a good medium-length finish. Good wine, but not quite a star for me (not that I tasted all 60 wines in the class).
2005 Peter Lehmann Sémillon Margaret Australia, South Australia, Barossa
Trophy: Best Wine of Show {screwcap, 11.5%} Lovely developed nose of smoke & toast. The palate offers a glorious honeyed richness, despite being bone dry, with still some phenolic grip, medium-high acid, and medium-bodied weight. It’s powerful but not bludgeoning, with a long, aged yet fresh finish. A tribute to the variety; a super wine and a worthy trophy winner.
2010 Andrew Thomas Wines Sémillon Braemore Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
Bronze medal {screwcap, 11.5%} Wrongly thinking I tasted the 2009 back in January, I fell upon this; how the memory fools us. So a month later; bright straw and grass aromas waft from the near-colourless wine. With light-medium body, and quite high acidity, the grassy flavours are quite taut on the palate, but still cover the tongue quite evenly, and culminate in a clean, piercing finish. Good effort.
2009 Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
Silver medal, and highest-pointed wine of the ‘other whites’ class (ie, not chard, riesling, semillon, sauvignon or pinot gris) {screwcap, 13.5%} Young, sweet nose of spicy pear and apricot. Sweetish but phenolic-tasting, with warm baked-fruit flavours, soft acid. Medium-full bodied, but low in acid, rather clunky and thick on the palate, with the weight sitting towards the front of the tongue. Not much interest here.
2006 Peter Lehmann Riesling Wigan Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
Gold medal. {screwcap} Quite aged. A whiff of petrol amongst the toasty, aged citrus aromas. The palate is clean enough, dry, rather lighter in weight and the aging flavours rather washed out. Most disappointing factor is the short finish. Ready to drink now but something of a disappointment anyway, especially given the quality of last year’s 2005 and also the 2004 tasted fifteen minutes later…
2005 Pewsey Vale Vineyard Riesling The Contours Museum Reserve Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
Silver medal {screwcap} Good depth of aged, honey-on-toast aromas which retain some citric authenticity. A dry, medium-bodied, quite phenolic riesling, which seems at the limit of its acid structure. There’s a touch of petroluem about it, with flavours of browning apples. Seems a little heavy, although the length of finish is respectable enough. I think its flavour profile is really suffering from being too warm; at, say, 12ºC it would be far a better proposition.
2009 d'Arenberg Roussanne The Money Spider Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
{screwcap} A pungent, developing nose of marzipan, peach and honeydew. The palate tastes oddly confected and disjointed; on average it’s medium-bodied but seems to thud heavily on the palate with white-fleshed fruit flavours and a generally powdery texture, and then disappears into a very short finish of alarmingly low intensity. Again, a lower temperature would help, but drink up; this isn’t doing the variety any favours.
2004 Peter Lehmann Riesling Wigan Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
Gold medal. {screwcap} An aged but kerosene-free nose of toasty honey, limes and minerals. Rich, persistent flavours, dry, chalkily-textured, medium-bodied. Tastes younger than it smells. A long, somewhat austere, but wonderfully even finish coats all the tongue; it’s a terrific wine with another 5 years at least of development in front of it.
2004 Tahbilk Marsanne 1927 Vines Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Nagambie Lakes
Silver medal {screwcap} Relatively restrained nose of soft honeysuckle and white-flower fruits. The palate is very acidic and doesn’t taste 7 years old; there are greasy-textured grapey fruit flavours with a tangy sweetness to them. It’s medium-full bodied with lots of intensity and a quite long finish too; I was hugely impressed until I got to the 2003 vintage! Side-by-side, I think this is nearer its peak, and is a bit more flamboyant and obvious. Very good wine on its own, but I see why the judges pointed the 03 vintage higher.
2003 Tahbilk Marsanne 1927 Vines Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Nagambie Lakes
Gold medal {screwcap} Similar peach/honeysuckle aromas to the 2004 vintage, but wearing a more restrained expression. Acid is a little soft but holds up the developing fruits. Lacks the overt drama of the 2004, but with medium-bodied weight and a medium length finish seems to have greater integrity, and in the end better quality than the 2004. I think ultimately this will age longer and hit a higher peak than the younger wine. Hock into the 04s and keep these for later.
2010 Giant Steps Pinot Noir Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
Gold medal {screwcap}. Pinkish sort of garnet colour. Nose is a nicely-balanced blend of cherries, slatks and red grape aromas; not dominated by one simple fruit. The palate balances a touch of silky-textured oak with restraind sour cherry fruits. Soft powdery tannins provide structure, it’s moderately intense in a light-medium bodied way, and while overall it’s tasty enough, and reasonably interesting, it doesn’t have great persistence of finish. But there is a little mid-palate presence, which helps. Pretty good overall. A ‘buy’ verdict would depend on price.
2009 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir Australia, Tasmania
Gold medal {screwcap} Another accidental retaste of a wine I had some months ago! Young nose of sweet strawberry fruit backed with cedary oak. A real crowd pleaser. A sweetly rich palate. Ripe and primary but not too gloopy or flabby. Chalky tannins, medium-bodied, acid not especially noticeable but effective enough; overall a generous, probably shorter-term, pinot in a modern style.
2009 Patritti Saperavi Barossa Valley Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
Bronze medal {cork, 14%} A purple-verging-on-black colour. Young nose of prunes and brandy essence, with smoke/tobacco notes. Big, rich palate; roasted prunes, bitter coffee & tobacco flavours. Inky-fruit flavours shine through soft oak treatment. Lots of dusty tannins make an impact; it’s intense, medium-full bodied, although it only really seems to have much presence from the mid-palate back, which gives the finish a slightly hollow feel, and clips off the finish to no more than medium length. An interesting novelty nonetheless.
2009 Tahbilk Shiraz Eric Stevens Purbrick Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Nagambie Lakes
{screwcap} Young but mild (although with some purity) aromas of mulberry & spice, which bloom with air. The medium-weight palate is in the Tahbilk style; medium-bodied, chalkily-tannined, with minimal oak evident. Nevertheless, the palate does develop positively exotic liquorice & blueberry flavours, but always well-behaved. The lightest seasoning of cedar is all the contribution the oak really makes. A relatively understated wine, but one possessed of a long even finish, which bestow upon it a distinctly classy aura. It gets a medal from me, at least.
2009 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
Bronze medal {screwcap, 14%} Youthful, but weedy and earthy nose. A peppery palate follows that melds some blackcurrant fruits with earth and iron flavours. Strong chalky tannins make up a medium-full bodied impression on the tongue, with an evenly balanced palate, and a long savoury finish. Needs some time to come together; it’s not without its own internal harmony but wants a good five years to show more than an elemental dimension to its personality.
2009 Penfolds Shiraz RWT Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
Bronze medal {screwcap} Vivid purple. Youthful nose, essence of blueberries, mulberries and concentrated jam. For all the fruitiness, it’s very polished and approachable. On the palate, sweetly-fruited and quite dense, almost slippery in the way the lavish jammy, jubey fruits roll around you mouth. The other elements of structure aren’t apparent, yet the balance is there with medium powdery tannins and a savoury finish. The oak is thoroughly submerged in the fruit – this is not really an oaky wine, to the point where it could almost pass for St Henri. Medium intnesity, and a decent sort of finish, although it’s a little short for what’s going to be a A$150 wine…
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2009 Innocent Bystander Syrah Yarra Valley Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
Silver medal {screwcap} Youthful nose; spice cinnamon, sandalwood, some coolish-climate red fruits. On the palate a nicely-balanced vaguely spicy medium-bodied shiraz. It’s moderately intense, dry and savoury, with balanced chalky tannins and a medium length finish that tails away a little on the rather soft back palate. Good effort which might develop nicely for 4-5 years.
2009 Best's Great Western Shiraz Bin No 0 Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
Gold medal {screwcap} The ruby-coloured wine offers dark-hued inky aromas, with a touch of blackberries and soy and some dark Great Western earth. Soft dusty tannins frame earthy red fruits, ripe but not overblown, and sown with a touch of tobacco. Medium-full bodied, with plenty of heft in the middle of the tongue, and a medium length finish. Pretty schmick wine all round, and a good expression of the region.
2007 Penfolds Shiraz RWT Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
{screwcap} Young blueberry and fruitcake aromas. Distinct vanilla touch. Lots of powdery tannins and medium-full bodied presence on the palate don’t quite match the velvety texture of the 2009, but this remains a pretty luscious wine, pretty well-balanced with lots of heft on the mid-palate. Rich and full, it ought to develop interest over time but is a bit one-dimensional at the moment, despite a few years in bottle.
2006 O'Leary Walker Shiraz Claire Reserve Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
{screwcap} Some development here, but the aromas of menthol on blackcurrant and spearmint still have a way to go. It smells the way you expect Clare shiraz to smell. Full-bodied but not clumsy on the palate, it has moderate chalky tannins and pretty lavish fruits which coat all parts of the tongue with sweet, even slightly tangy fruit, despite that hint of dark green that it carries. I’m guessing it fell short of a medal because even with all this initial impact of flavour, the finish only just gets up to medium length.
2005 Orlando Shiraz Lawsons Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Padthaway
Bronze medal {screwcap} Sure, I’m not tasting blind, but I’m convinced the overt mintiness of Lawsons is identifiable from the first sniff even with a raging head cold. This is an absolute festival of nasal peppermint, in the richest possible vein. There are jubey, minty flavours on the palate, along with a fizz of pepper, quite a lot of chalky tannins and medium acidity. And although medium-bodied in weight, there’s a sort of hollowness to the medium-length finish which lacks generosity. A shorter-term wine if you like the somewhat extreme style.
2007 Hardys Shiraz Eileen Hardy Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
Gold medal {screwcap} In a burgundy-shaped bottle? I double-checked the catalogue, but this is definitely Eileen. Somewhat developing nose, initially a little reductive/metallic, and although it blooms with some time, it retains a slightly sullen air. Offers general red berry fruits and plenty of vanilla – not very promising. The palate is way better, although a bit of a bruiser, with ripe thick shiraz fruit and cedary oak. Fullish bodied, with a whack of powdery tannin, although the flavours are a bit monolithic, and the finish only struggles to medium length. Time needed, or not quite got the goods? Hard to say. And I’m still baffled by the bottle…
2007 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
Gold medal {screwcap, 14.5%} Solid garnet. Youthful, intense pepper and blueberry aromas. The palate is a little more earthy in the flavours, adding a touch of earth and spice. The fruit itself on the palate is a bit more guarded, perhaps concealed a little by medium level, rather boney tannins. It’s medium-bodied too, and has probably triumphed with the judges by virtue of the even texture right along the palate, although it tails off a little at the back. Finishes just a touch warm. Decent enough, but not a gold from me.
2006 Tahbilk Shiraz Eric Stevens Purbrick Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Nagambie Lakes
Bronze medal {cork} Aged nose, dusty, with mulberry/chocolate/liquorice aromas. Tastes much younger than the nose suggests; the dusty/mustiness is less pronounced. The fruit is a bit restrained, but has great depth. Dry and savoury texture. Gentle oak as ever with Tahbilk, medium powdery tannins. A fine and supple wine with plenty of mid and back-palate presence, despite only really being medium-bodied, which culmintes in a long finish, lacking a little in complexity at this relatively young (for Tahbilk) age. Less lavish than the 2009, but may just be of similar quality in the end.
2009 McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Old Paddock & Old Hill Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
Gold medal {screwcap} Garnet. Attractive & youthful nose of soft earthy, dusty spiced-berry shiraz fruit. Blurry and sensuous. The palate is medium-bodied in every way, with spiced cherry fruit, chalky tannins, and unobtrusive acid. The tongue is occupied with this wine from front to back, and the finish is long and savoury. This is a beautiful wine without shouting at you; credit to the judges for not overlooking this relatively understated and subtle offering in the “Named Vineyard – Shiraz” class of 120 entries (just the 5 golds awarded). A class act, which ought to age beautifully for a good 15 years at least.
2007 Houghton Cabernet Sauvignon Jack Mann Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Frankland River
Silver medal {cork} Developing nose of blackberry liqueur, currants and dark chocolate. Seems promising, but the palate is quite dilute, despite the massive dusty tannins and initial full-bodied impact. But the aromas barely appear as flavours; there’s a little weight on the front of the tongue, and then everything just disappears. It’s a sort of magic, but in a bad way. Perhaps I should have opened the second bottle, but it was such an epic walk to the decorking machine I didn’t bother. A disappointment in every way.
2008 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
Silver medal {screwcap} Very authentically cabernet after all these luxury cuvee shirazes. This is youthful, but all twiggy, brambly, herb-garden fruits, with just a little blackcurrant. The palate is where the currants are more prominent, allaying any fears of unripeness. Controlled cedary oak (much less than 10 years ago) contributes to the powdery tannins annd generally fine-grained texture of the wine. Medium intensity, medium-full bodied, and with a long finish, it dips just a little in the mid-palate, but has the depth of flavour to promise a long cellar life. Masterful cabernet than speaks the lannguage of Coonawarra well.
2008 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 Australia, South Australia
{screwcap} Youthful nose, and right out of the Penfolds wine-making guide. Meat and tar, currants, and lots of vanilla, although not as much as there used to be back in the 90s. The palate is hugely tannic, but the grain is very fine indeed. Currant and dark chocolate flavours remain strong but refined. At this age the wine is a bit blocky, certainly, but is drinkable, should you really want to. Full-bodied, with lots of mid-palate presence, and a long persistent finish, it’s consistent with the label’s pedigree. No heat on the finish, nor any trace of raisin/prune characters. It’s cabernet writ large, but authentically so. Wants 15 years, at least.
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2008 Lindeman's Pyrus Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
Bronze medal {screwcap} There’s some development here, among the herbal spicy nose. Smells like there’s plenty of cab franc here, but that’s just a guess… On the palate, the flavours are rather twiggy, but in an authentically bordeaux-blend way; it’s medium-bodied, with medium chalky tannins. It’s rather lean generally, with a very low-voltage palate and worst of all, a rather disappointing short finish. A bronze medal was getting away with it, I reckon.
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2008 Oakridge Cabernet Sauvignon 864 Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
Bronze medal {screwcap} Garnet. Youthful. Essence of cassis, garlanded with herbs. Very classy. Equally pure cabernet palate, dustily tannic, with ripe but not over-cooked fruit, medium intensity, and decent presence on the front and back palates. Medium-length finish only, a slight disappointment, but it’s all that lets down this authentic offering.
2008 Houghton Cabernet Sauvignon Jack Mann Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Frankland River
Gold medal {screwcap} A distinct step up from the rather mediocre 2007 vintage, this youthful-smelling wine presents a nose of currants coffee and chocolate, gently wrapped in cedar. The palate has great depth of flavour, fine but powerful chalky tannins, medioum-full body, and a long, dry, persistent finish that retains a beautiful balance to the end. A class effort deservedly picks up one of 4 golds struck in this class of 50+ wines.
2007 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard Glengyle Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
{screwcap} Deep ruby colour, but clearly developing on the bouquet. Tobacco, twigs, herbs and leaves are the predominant aromas. It seems rather a mix of under and over-ripe on the palate, with slightly more cabernet/currant flavours than the nose promises, but retains a herbal quality. No fruit-bomb, that’s for sure. It’s medium-full bodied without being hot or overblown, but the medium-length finish just seems to lack the wow factor, not helped by a rather flat back-palate. Possibly at an awkward stage, but not really convincing.
2006 Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz E & E Black Pepper Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
{cork} Probably uncorked for an hour or so, this presents an aging, dank, dirty, weedy nose. Little sign of fruit on the palate either, which is stale & bacterial-smelling and devoid of length, other than a coarse tannic note. Suspect this bottle is prematurely oxidised.
Red - Sparkling
2006 Leasingham Shiraz Classic Clare Sparkling Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
Silver medal {cork} Jubey, slightly jammy aromas, with a touch of tobacco. There’s a whiff of sweetness on the palate, not too much, and rather furious bubbles. Oak is subtle. Medium weight, this is entertaining rather than profound, and needs to be served at the correct temperature to show its best. Sound, but not terribly exciting.
White - Sweet/Dessert
2009 Tamar Ridge Riesling Botrytis Kayena Vineyard Australia, Tasmania, Tamar Valley
{375ml, screwcap, 9%} Youthful aromas of quince, cumquat, apricot, and a strong dash of limes. Medium-dry palate, light-medium bodied, which retains enough acid to add some interest to the flavours, which tend to be a little on the simple side. Odd, when the nose is such a kaleidescope, to find the palate rather straightforward with grapey, almost muscat-like flavours. A clean but short finish explains the lack of a medal – fair call.
White - Sweet/Dessert
2008 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Sémillon Australia, New South Wales, Big Rivers, Riverina
Bronze medal {375ml, screwcap} Developing aromas of quince and figs and lots of botrytis notes. Very rich and syrupy palate, infused with dense caramel/honey flavours. About as sweet as it gets, which tests the acid almost to the point of invisibility, and medium-full bodied in this context. The weight does fade towards the back palate, and although the finish is decently long it remains a bit one-dimensional at the moment. Fair effort.
White - Sweet/Dessert
2008 Westend Estate Wines Sémillon 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis Australia, New South Wales, Big Rivers, Riverina
{375ml, screwcap, 11%} Past its youth, this has a distinct smoky note cutting through the rich botrytis/apricot aromas. Although not massively sweet, it’s a bit gloopy & flabby and lacks the acid to give it freshness. And the smoky aromas turn into rather dirty flavours somehow, which add nothing to the palate. Medium length finish, but it’s a mediocre wine at best.


That’s it; 8am til 11.15. Barely 40 wines. Too much reading and walking! Rather wish I’d had the afternoon to carry on, but the Wine Show lunch was beckoning, at which we would taste a dozen trophy winners and hear some words of wisdom from various judges.

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