WA sweeps 2013 Boutique Wine Awards

And the winner is: Vines at Margaret River’s Gralyn, which was the star of the show. Photo: Sandra Harrison HERO
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Western Australia is the big winner at this year’s Boutique Wine Awards. The state’s wineries won seven of the 13 top-of-class trophies, five of which went to the Margaret River region.

But New Zealand – which usually excels at sauvignon blanc and pinot noir – won none. It’s likely the seasonal conditions help explain both phenomena: WA has had a run of excellent vintages since 2006, while much of eastern Australia had a traumatically wet vintage in 2011. And New Zealand had difficult seasons in 2011 and last year.

From WA, Margaret River’s Gralyn was the star, winning best fortified wine and best wine of the show with its Gralyn Artizan – a 20-year-old, non-vintage, wood-matured fortified wine – and its Gralyn Reserve Chardonnay 2012 topped the highly competitive chardonnay class, winning the trophy.

The Gralyn brand is owned by Graham and Merilyn Hutton, whose 4.5-hectare vineyard in the prized Wilyabrup subregion is fully mature at 38 years old. It was the first cellar door to open in Margaret River, and still today the wines are only available over the counter ex-cellar door, although there are also mail and internet sales (gralyn杭州夜生活m.au).

The Artizan is an extraordinary wine that tasted to the judges like an old Rutherglen tokay or perhaps muscat. It’s made from muscat, pedro ximinez and tokay grapes, and sells for $75 a half-bottle at the cellar door – where you can taste it without charge.

The entire Hutton family had a great show as Hutton Wines, the brand of Graham and Merilyn’s son Michael, won two silver medals with its 2011 and 2012 Triptych chardonnays. Another son, Dr Bradley Hutton, is winemaker for Gralyn. Both brands are tiny: the published crush of Gralyn is between 20 and 50 tonnes and the stated production of Hutton Wines is fewer than 1000 cases.

The Boutique Wine Awards are open to all Australian and New Zealand wineries crushing a maximum 250 tonnes of grapes a year. They were judged in July, with the prizes announced last week.

Another WA winery to shine was Singlefile, whose 2012 Lindsay’s Vineyard Pinot Noir topped the pinot noir class and took home the trophy. Singlefile also did well with its 2012 Family Reserve Chardonnay, winning a gold medal. It is owned by Philip and Vivienne Snowden, and has a vineyard and cellar door in the beautiful Denmark area of the Great Southern region. Winemaking is overseen by omnipresent consultant Larry Cherubino, and the wines were made by contract maker Coby Ladwig. It’s another small boutique, with a stated annual crush of 20-50 tonnes. The Snowdens bought a rundown vineyard in 2007, revived it and created the Singlefile brand. The chardonnay is off their own vines, and the pinot comes from a neighbour’s vineyard.

Other West Australian winners were Palmer Wines Merlot 2009 Margaret River (best merlot), Rosily Vineyard Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Margaret River (best white blend), Talisman Fume Blanc 2012, from the Geographe region (best sauvignon blanc), and Higher Plane Cabernet Merlot 2010 Margaret River (best red blend).

As chairman of judges since the competition began, I can happily report that the sparkling category, which used to be the show’s weakness, is much improved. A significant number of the wines last year and this year displayed polish and sophistication. The trophy wine was Charles Sturt University Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut 2009. A superb sparkling wine, it displayed the prized combination of freshness and complexity. Made from Tumbarumba grapes at the university’s Wagga Wagga winery by winemaker Andrew Drumm, it sells for just $27.50 from the cellar door or from winery.csu.edu.au, plus a few independent retailers: it’s $30 at Glebe Liquor.

Shiraz is always the biggest class, and this year was right up to standard, thanks to the 2012 and 2010 vintages, which were both strong, with 2011 weaker. The top wine was new to me: Bellevue from McLaren Vale. This is tight, firm and elegant, with spicy complexity and lively presence. A great result from a difficult vintage. Bellevue had a 100 per cent success rate: one wine entered, one trophy scored. I’m sure we’ll be hearing the name again.

I liked Harcourt Valley Barbara’s Shiraz 2011 (from Bendigo), Jericho McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 – a new one from Taylors general manager Neil Jericho, a hugely experienced winemaker – and Wicks Estate 2012, from the Adelaide Hills. At $20 ex-winery, the Wicks is one of the top buys of the show. It’s fleshy and spicy, with plenty of weight and density. (wicksestate杭州夜生活m.au).

Wicks Estate winemaker Tim Knappstein, another enormously experienced winemaker, had success with his own Riposte wines, crowned by his The Sabre Pinot Noir 2012 (gold medal).

There are always surprises in this competition, and little-known Geographe region winery Talisman provided one of those. All but one of its six entries scored a medal: trophy for 2012 Fume Blanc, silver for 2010 malbec, and bronzes for 2009 riesling, 2010 shiraz and 2009 cabernet malbec.

Mandoon Estate of the Swan Valley entered seven wines and scored seven medals, including two golds for the 2010 reserve cabernet sauvignon and 2011 cabernet merlot. Old-vine grenache 2011, Frankland River shiraz 2011 and reserve cabernet sauvignon 2011 won silvers, while sauvignon blanc and verdelho from this year took bronzes. That’s consistent winemaking quality.

Full results at boutiquewines杭州夜生活m.au.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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