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Wines of provenance

Prized grapevines at Tyrrell’s Wines – trophy winners in the Hunter Valley Wine Show 2012

It’s an inescapable fact that any wine region is a mix of the old and the new.

There’s history in the vines, the soils, the pioneering families, the homesteads, the people and the wineries.

And successive generations, improvements to technologies, experiments with winemaking techniques, innovative promotional activities and fresh blood bring an element of the new to wine regions.

The Hunter Valley, New South Wales’ most visited tourist destination outside of Sydney, provides an intoxicating mix of heritage and hip; nostalgia and new. Hey, it even has a pretty happening cocktail bar at Goldfish, just a stone’s throw from one of Australia’s most iconic shiraz vineyards, Graveyard, over the road at Brokenwood.

We recently joined a group of trade and media on a trip to the Hunter to celebrate the annual Hunter Valley Wine Show 2012 and sip, and see for ourselves, what’s happening in the region.  (Read on for the list of some of the most stylish sips awarded at this year’s Hunter Valley Wines Show).

A zip around the heritage vineyards with leading local viticulturalist Liz Reilly showed how the region has initiated a scheme called the Heritage Vineyard Project to protect its most important assets – old vines. Set up by Bruce Tyrrell in 2008, the Project categories vines into age-dividing categories.

Greg Drayton

Greg Drayton of Draytons Family Wines, established in 1853, joined us in the vineyard for his salt-of-the-earth style recollections.  We had been warned about Greg’s ‘sick jokes’ but apart from some funny tales about his ancestor being collected by his wife via wheelbarrow after too many drinks and rolled down the hill, Greg was on pretty good behaviour. “We’re proud of these grapevines here. I’ll say it – you really cant’ produce a decent wine off young vines. Small crops have great flavour and colour,” said Greg.

Local winemaking legend Patrick Auld elaborated by saying, “There’s far more better balance and more intensity of fruit flavours – vines are like children and they need time to mature,” said Patrick.

Two vineyards just metres away can produce wines of completely different character and the age of vines plays a significant factor in flavours. The semillon from older semillon vines tends to have a more mineral, slate and textural quality explained Andrew Leembruggen, winemaker at Drayton’s; while semillon from younger vines has more apples and lime fruit characteristics.

Cellar door at Margan Wines

At the beautiful restaurant at Margan Wines, owner and winemaker Andrew Margan, and current president of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association, said that the Hunter is often “pigeon-holed as tired, but we’re here to prove we’re not – and whilst we’re very serious about the wines we make, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Over lunch that included free range quail with risotto bianco, chantrelles, thyme and pinenuts, we sampled a range of wines from the region, including trademark Hunter semillon and shiraz, along with pinot grigio, a shiraz pinot, barbera and tempranillo.  The Margan cellar door and restaurant is located in a beautiful and serene setting and it would be pretty easy to sip away the hours here, amidst the stunning design and hospitality.

Masterchef, Brokenwood style

It wasn’t just the local winemakers under the spotlight either – the local chefs were challenged to a  ‘Masterchef Brokenwood style’ challenge at Brokenwood winery. Four chefs from the area including Andy Wright from The Cellar, Troy Rhodes-Brown from Muse at Hungerford Hill, Ebonee Newby from Esca at Bimbadgen and Emerson Rodriguez from Emerson’s at Pokolbin were involved in a morning fry-up to determine who makes the best bacon and egg rolls in the area.  Chief winemaker of Brokenwood Iain Riggs welcomed us and the sips were flowing.

Peppertree Wines winemaker explains the Bacon & Egg Roll challenge rules to us judges

We all took our judging duties very seriously, including the winemakers where comments like, “flavour up front but too salty on the back palate”, were tossed around between Sarah Scarecrow, winemaker at Bimbadgen and Jim Chatto, winemaker at Peppertree Wines and this year’s chairman of judges at the Hunter Valley Wine Show.

Winner Ebonee Newby from Esca at Bimbadgen

In the end, there could only be one winner – and it went to the only female chef in the line-up, Ebonee Newby from Esca.  For her troubles, Ebonee won a magnum of Taittinger Champagne – some stylish sips there for Ebonee! If you’re in the area, get yourself to Esca at Bimbadgen – we also enjoyed a dinner there and the food, views and service are sensational, while the cellar door has a large range of wines to try, made by one of the most talented winemakers in the region, Sarah Crowe.

At the trophy presentation for the Hunter Valley Wine Show 2012, chairman of judges Jim Chatto explained that 38 gold medals had been awarded to semillon, 19 to shiraz, 5 to chardonnay and one for tempranillo.  Twenty trophies were awarded to just 9 producers. The recent 2012 vintage provided challenging conditions and heartache for many vignerons and winemakers, largely a wash-out for the red wines, but as Jim said: “pressure makes diamonds and there are some superb examples of semillon from 2012”.

Katrina Holden, Sip Your Style and Gwynth Olsen, winemaker at McWilliam’s Wines at Esca, Bimbadgen

At lunch I was joined with Hungerford Hill – who recently took out a local award for Cellar Door of the Year in May. General manager and winemaker Michael Hatcher unveiled some of their new-look wines soon to be released and it’s set to be an exciting few months ahead for the company.

A full list of the trophy-winning wines is below – get your hands on these wines quickly sippers. There’s a great range of both style and price here, and all are reflective of the best the Hunter Valley has to offer.

For the first time,   the ‘Iain Riggs Wine of Provenance’ award was introduced, named in honour of Iain Riggs, one of the region’s most prominent winemakers and former Chair of Judges as a tribute to his commitment to the region.

“These wines are what we do – they speak of place,” said Iain.

The inaugural award went to Tyrrell’s Wines. “I think its one of the most important things we’ve done in the region,” said Bruce Tyrrell on accepting the award.

When it was time to leave, the words from the previous day of Andrew Margan, President of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association came to mind.

“When you leave, we want you to know that all that’s ‘old’ in the Hunter Valley is the vines, and all that’s ‘tired’ should be you.”

Right you are, Andrew.

The following tasting notes are courtesy of Sip Your Style regular contributor Lisa Johnston, Wine Muse.

To see more photos, please visit our Facebook album here 

Selection of gold-medal winning wines:

Tyrrells Belford Semillon 2012 :  Pure citrus, dipping to grapefruit ripeness.  Mineral linearity along a long length. You may not see this one for a while, they tend to be released with some age when they look a little rounder.

McLeish Semillon 2007: A softer style but saucy, showy some development in its honeyed lemon depths.  Linear and long. A wine with a long line of accomplishments.

Tintilla Hunter Reserve Semillon 2004 : Still youthful with just a touch of honey to its grapefruit and mineral liveliness. Just some roundness and some waxiness on the palate. A lovely flavoured length, good drinking now or hold in the cellar.

Audrey Wilkinson Tempranillo 2011:  The purple purple plum depths hint at the vibrancy to come.  There are violets, cinnamon and some fresh herb characters pleasing both nose and palate. Supple tannins with plush fruit along the long length ending on a savoury finish.

Tinklers UandI Shiraz 2010: Fresh blueberry and plum are brought to life with some cinnamon. A juicy supple Shiraz with Hunter elegance with line and length. If you are bored with the usual Shiraz suspects, seek this one out!

Eagles Rest Shiraz 2009: Plenty of spiced plum delight here. Firm with concentration and intensity with a savoury finish. Lots to love with the price under $20 if you buy them from the dozen through cellar door.

A selection of trophy-winning wines:

First Creek Winemakers Reserve  Chardonnay 2011: A wine rich in creamy, nutty stonefruit while still offering fresh fruit layers. There is silkiness and roundness that shape the mouth. A good food wine.

Tempus Two Wines Pewter Semillon 2011:  Soft citrus fruit around a long mineral backbone. While the aromas are still tightly held, there is a more generous palate resonating with flavour.   Will age gracefully but good drinking now.

Tempus Two Wines Copper Zenith Semillon 2003:  The citrus fruit is showing some honeyed lanolin development though still fresh and aging gracefully. Softer acid with a lingering honeyed length offering a fleshier alternative to a youthful semillon.

Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz 2010:  A fresh Hunter shiraz with expressive cherry and plum fruit and a cinnamon and smoky edge.  Take just a little extra time with the nose and you will be rewarded with enticing floral notes.  Elegantly bodied with fine tannins make this wine just so drinkable now.

McGuigan Wines Personal Reserve Shiraz 2000:  With 12 years on it, this wine is looking remarkable with plenty of leathery nutmeg and black plum. The fruit is softly complemented by the fine texture that lasts in the mouth.  A wine that builds its story at a slower pace.

Tyrrell’s Vineyards Vat 8 Shiraz 2009:  A meeting of two New South Wales regions, one the doyenne, the other an up and coming diva. Modern Hunter shiraz marries well with Hilltops Cabernet with abundant dark plum and chocolate. While still elegantly structured, the Cabernet Sauvignon adds some firmness to the tannins. A wine that will give generously for years to come.


The full list of trophy winners is below. Grab these sips while you can:

Mike De Iuliis won so many trophies, he needed a chair to rest them on.

Marshall Flannery Trophy

Current Vintage – Semillon

Tyrrell’s Vineyards Chalkboard Semillon 2012

Henry John Lindeman Memorial Trophy

Current Vintage Dry White Wine

Tyrrell’s Vineyards Chalkboard Semillon 2012

Alexander Munro Memorial Trophy

One-Year-Old Dry Red Wine

De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2011

Bill Ryan Memorial Trophy

Most Successful Exhibitor of Young Wines

– Current Vintage Dry White Wines

& One-Year-Old Dry Red Wines

Tyrrell’s Vineyards

Ed Joualet Memorial Trophy

One-Year-Old Dry White Wine

Tempus Two Wines Pewter Semillon 2011

Elliott Family Trophy

Two-Year-Old Dry Red Wine

Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz 2010

James Busby Memorial Trophy

Premium Vintage Dry Red Wine

Sponsored by Plasdene Glass-Pak

Tyrrell’s Vineyards Vat 8 Shiraz 2009

George Wyndham Memorial Trophy

Premium Vintage Dry White Wine

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Museum Reserve Semillon 2006

Trevor Drayton Memorial Trophy

Premium Vintage Fortified Wine

Drayton’s Family Wines Liqueur Verdelho Heritage Vines

John Lewis Newcastle Herald Trophy

Museum Vintage Dry Red Wine

McGuigan Wines Personal Reserve Shiraz 2000

Graham Gregory Memorial Trophy

Museum Vintage Dry White Wine

Tempus Two Wines Copper Zenith Semillon 2003

Hector Tulloch Memorial Trophy

Dry Red Wine – Currently Available

De Iuliis Wines Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2011

Maurice O’Shea Memorial Trophy

Dry White Wine – Currently Available

Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon 2006

Murray Tyrrell Chardonnay Trophy

Best Chardonnay – Any Vintage

First Creek Wines Winemakers Reserve Chardonnay 2011

Draytons Family Trophy

Best Named Vineyard – Dry Red

De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2011

Tyrrell’s Family Trophy

Best Named Vineyard  – Dry White

Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon 2006

Len Evans Trophy

Best Named Vineyard Wine

Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon 2006

Petrie-Drinan Trophy

Best Dry White Wine of the Show

Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon 2006

Doug Seabrook Memorial Trophy

Best Dry Red Wine of the Show

Puncheon Supplied by Mercurey

De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2011

Iain Riggs Wines of Provenance

White – Tyrrell’s Vineyards

Vat 1 Semillon – 1999, 2006, 2009

Red – Tyrrell’s Vineyards

Vat 9 Shiraz – 1996, 2006, 2009











Citibank Dining Programme

L-R: Amina Elshafei, Marion Grasby and Sarah Eastwood

By Sharon Wild 

Are you like me and have several reward-point-accumulating cards of sorts that never seem to reap actual rewards? And when finally attempting to use the points after several years of loyalty, the process seems convoluted and the reward underwhelming?

The Citibank Rewards Credit Card – Signature is a breath of fresh air, because it is really simple to use. Plus, it provides access to the Citibank Dining Programme. With this programme, you get a free bottle of wine when dining in one of hundreds of partner restaurants! All you have to do is let the staff at the restaurant know that you’re a Citibank cardholder and you’ll be given a choice of a bottle of red or white wine.

Gary Mehigan and Sharon Wild

Celebrity Chef Gary Mehigan has recently stepped into the role of the Programme’s Ambassador, which will undoubtedly lead to some exciting reward offers and it demonstrates the bank’s commitment to the programme.

Another sign of commitment is that to date, Citibank have given away close to 50,000 bottles of wine! Partners for the wines include First Creek Estate – a Hunter Valley based winery that produces classy yet accessible wines including a classic Hunter Semillon, Hunter Chardonnay, Hunter Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from Orange.

Restaurant partners include those awarded hats – like the three hatted Sepia Restaurant in Sydney as well as many of your local favourites.

L-R: Tony Sheahan, Georgia Rickard and Adam Goodes

For someone who’s a bit sceptical about reward style offers, I reckon that this one from Citibank offers genuine value – because it is simple to use and because it taps into our love of food and wine!

To find out more, visit



August: Where to catch some interesting sips this month

Mudgee Wine & Food Festival Balmoral Beach


12 August, 11am-5pm

The Winemakers of Mudgee bring their fabulous award-winning wines to Sydney every August at the famous Balmoral Mudgee Wine & Food Fair. This year marks the 22nd Anniversary year.


Tasmanian Wine Fair


Sat 11 August

Hotel Grand Chancellor, Launceston

12 noon – 4.30PM

Sun 12 August

Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart

12 noon- 5PM


Hyatt Wine Week


 17-25 August, Hyatt Regency Perth

Hyatt Regency Perth is again preparing for another spectacular week of stylish events from August 17 – 25, celebrating the heart and soul of good living – sublime wine and fabulous food.

The Hyatt Wine Week, which began in 2010, has gained an enthusiastic following and shows off the best of Western Australian and international wines over a series of tastings and dinners.

This year the week-long line up will include some past favourites such as the Great Southern Winemaker’s Dinner, Liquor Baron’s Tasting and the popular wine blending session, the ‘X’ blend. A welcome new addition to the week’s calendar is ‘Champagne, Pearls and Oysters’, hosted by Kailis Pearls and seven of France’s most renowned Champagne houses.

‘Pigs, Ducks and Pinot’ will be another new event, featuring the world’s finest burgundies and pinot noirs paired with their most sublime food match, pork and duck, prepared over five courses by Hyatt Executive Chef, Mark Sainsbury and his team.


Taste Orange @ Sydney


23 – 24 August, Martin Place

The people, producers, winemakers, businesses, and celebrities of Orange are bringing a taste of Orange to Sydney’s Martin Place in a long table cellar door, filled with FREE wine and food tastings, music, entertainment as well as cooking demonstrations by 2011 Master Chef Winner Kate Bracks. Take a trip to Orange in your lunch break.



Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow


13- 21 August

Get up close and personal with your favourite Coonawarra winemakers during the month of August at the 2012 Annual Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow. Coming to a capital city near you, this is your chance to see, smell and taste an impressive range of Coonawarra wines. Tickets $30. Book online for your chance to win one dozen of Coonawarra’s finest wines!

13 August – Brisbane – Royal on the Park – 5-8pm

14 August – Sydney – Sydney Town Hall – 5-8pm

15 August – Canberra – Rydges Lakeside – 5-8pm

16 August – Melbourne – Melbourne Town Hall – 5-8pm

19 August – Adelaide – National Wine Centre – 3-6pm

21 August – Perth – Perth Town Hall – 5-8pm



NAB Barossa Gourmet Weekend


18 & 19 August

This year over 22 wineries are offering fabulous food, world famous wines, and the best of SA ‘s live entertainment.

To get your experience underway, simply purchase an NAB Barossa Gourmet wine glass from the first winery you visit.  Hang on to it as this glass can be used throughout the weekend at participating wineries. Please note this is not a BYO event.

The easiest and safest way to get around this nab Barossa Gourmet Weekend is by using the LinkSA Shuttle Bus service. Three timetabled loops will see you transported to the participating wineries and give you the ability to schedule and plan your day.

Tickets are $25 per day, with multiple pick-up and drop-off points throughout the Barossa.


#WinedUp #4


Sat 25 Aug, 4-8pm

#WinedUp returns to Homestyle Solutions on Saturday 25th August 2012 from 4pm-8pm.

Giving Adelaide punters the rare opportunity to taste some mighty fine wines from undoubtedly the most iconic winery, Penfolds.



Trainworks Winter Beer Festival

THIRLMERE (just outside SYDNEY)

Sat 25 Aug

Brewers and beer lovers will make tracks to Thirlmere on August 25 for greater Sydney’s first ever winter themed beer event – the inaugural Trainworks Winter Beer Festival, a celebration of great beer and the craftsmanship, artistry and passion that goes into its creation. The Trainworks Winter Beer Festival will unite some of the state’s best boutique beers and hearty winter fare at the stunning Trainworks site in Thirlmere, located about 90km southwest of Sydney, an easy one hour drive from the CBD.


Flavours of Greece


28 Aug – 27 Sept

Flavours of Greece, presented by Barbaresso Oyzo, brings you four weeks of foodie events featuring delectable Greek food, decadent desserts, gastronomic trivia and plenty of ouzo!

Melbourne’s leading Greek chefs and restaurants will share their favourite dishes, and some of their secrets, through a selection of specially-designed dinners inspired by the flavours that make Greek food so unique and loved across the globe.

Now in its third year, the 2012 Flavours of Greece program presents a mix of regional cuisine, classic feasts and contemporary Greek cuisine.




2012 Wine List of the Year Awards announced

Judy Sarris, editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine and presenter, The Wine Man Peter Bourne.

Australia’s Wine List of the Year awards recognises the best Aussie wine lists around the country – from country and regional to the most lavish city-based venues. The awards are co-presented by premium wine distributor Fine Wine Partners and Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine, and were first established in 1994. This year, a record 425 lists were submitted to a well-respected panel of 28 national and international judges.

The biggest gong of the awards went to  The Royal Mail Hotel from Dunkeld, Western Victoria. This iconic Aussie hotel located in the middle of the bush  is managed by sommelier Sebastian Crowther.

“Everyone was thoroughly impressed by the Royal Mail’s extensive choice of wines across different price points, wines by the glass, collections of museum verticals and, of special note, an extraordinary selection of local and international rieslings,” said Rob Hirst, chairman of Fine Wine Partners and Judy Sarris, editor, Gourmet Traveller WINE. The Royal Mail also won best Country Restaurant Wine List, Best List in Victoria and sommelier Sebastian Crowther was awarded the Judy Hirst Award for his role managing the winning list.


Royal Mail Hotel winning team. L-R: John Myers, Simon Freeman and Sebastian Crowther

This year for the first time, a new award the  ‘Best Listing of Australian Wine’ was won by Sydney’s Aria restaurant, which were tuned into Aussie wine-lovers wanting to see more quality local wines on their lists.

Winning wine lists were spread around the country with Victorian wins including Royal Mail Hotel – Australia’s Wine List of the Year and Country Restaurant Wine List, Lake House, Daylesford – Regional Wine List, Circa, The Prince – Food and Wine Matching List, Melbourne Supper Club – Wine Bar List, The Botanical – Pub Restaurant Wine List, European – Café/Brasserie Wine List, and Healesville Hotel – Beer List.

New South Wales winners included Rockpool Bar & Grill – Aperitif List and Digestif List, Bloodwood – Small Wine List,  Balla, The Star – International Hotel Restaurant Wine List, Est – List of Wines by the Glass, Aria – Listing of Australian Wine.

WA’s The Trustee won this year’s New Wine List – Tony Hitchin Award and The Brisbane Club in QLD once again won Club Wine List.

Top lists in each state were won by Rubicon, ACT, Char Restaurant, NT, Ortiga, QLD,  Apothecary 1878, SA, Me Wah, TAS, Rockpool Bar & Grill, WA, Glass Brasserie, NSW and  Royal Mail Hotel, VIC

The Gourmet Traveller WINE Readers’ Choice Award for 2012 went to Aria – Sydney, NSW.

At the presentation ceremony at Sydney’s Glass Brasserie (winner of Top NSW List), there was some friendly rivalry between the NSW and VIC sommeliers, but all states achieved results to be proud of. A fine selection of wines were on pour as well as a delicious range of cheese from King Island Dairy. Next year, it would be great to see the official logo updated to include a screw cap or two – because as we know sippers, some very fine wines and stylish sips are sealed under this type of closure too.

So sippers, if you’re planning a night out, head to any of these winning venues, you’ll be guaranteed some stylish sips.  A full list of winners can be found here  



New Zealand single vineyard Pinot Noir releases

The name Mt Difficulty is certainly no reflection of the style of sips from this New Zealand Central Otago leading wine producer.

Recently, we dined with winemaker Matt Dicey at Sydney’s iconic Quay restaurant, to try three new single vineyard releases from the 2010 vintage – producing stylish wines from what Matt termed a bit of an ‘odd vintage’. At the end of our meal, we also tried the Bannockburn Late Harvest Riesling 2011 which was deliciously rich and inviting.

Mt Difficulty winemaker, Matt Dicey

Mt Difficulty planted their first vines in 1992 and produced their first wines in 1998, with Matt joining the team in 1999.

To kick off the night, we tried some 2011 Target Riesling 2011 (RRP: $35) with Matt saying: “I’m a hopeless riesling lover, so we make five of them!”. The Target riesling sees some residual sugar left in the wine to balance acidity, creating a popular, drinkable style.

Of the three new release pinot noir’s, all from the 2010 vintage, Matt said:  “These three limited release wines capture the essence of everything we are trying to achieve with pinot noir and must meet some incredibly strict criteria before they see the light of day,” said Matt. “That’s why it’s such a pleasant surprise to see all three released…..I am sure we will be talking about the 2010 vintage for years to come.”

At the Mt Difficulty cellar door in Central Otago, New Zealand

Mt Difficulty Target Gully Pinot Noir 2010 ($99)

Appealing nose with plum, dark black forest fruit, licorice and spice characters with a supple texture and fine grained tannins.

Mt Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace Pinot Noir 2010 ($99)

Sour cherry perfumed fragrance with a soft, velvety and silky texture.

Mt Difficulty Long Gully Pinot Noir 2010 ($99)

A juicy style with classic dark perfumed red berry characters integrated tannins and oak characters.

The 2010 Mt Difficulty range of limited release pinot noirs is available at fine wine outlets nationally. 







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