Category Archives: Wine Awards

Oct 10 2014

What’s Making Wine News: Penfolds’ Peter Gago is named GTW Winemaker of the Year

Posted on October 10, 2014 | By

2014 is shaping up as a big year for Penfolds. Not only does 2014 mark the winery’s 170th anniversary, but for the first time the company released two vintages of Penfolds Grange – the 2009 and the 2010 – in the same year.

The 2010 Penfolds Grange is winning wide acclaim as one of the best vintages ever, and it comes hot on the heels of the 2008, which was given a rare 100 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

No wonder Peter Gago, Penfolds’ chief winemaker for the past 12 years, has just won Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Wine prestigious Winemaker of the Year award. He also picked up the Len Evans Award for Leadership – marking the first time both awards have been given to the same person in one year!

While the media spotlight inevitably falls on the release of the Grange, wine critic Huon Hooke observes that in 2014 Penfolds also released two of the greatest wines it has ever produced: The 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Block 3C Limited Edition Shiraz and the 50-Year-Old Rare Tawny.  (Peter Gago named GWT Winemaker of the Year 2014 by Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine, 18 October 2014)

The recommended retail prices for these two wines, $1,800 and $3,550 a bottle respectively, is audacious, but no-one disputes their calibre. They represent winemaking at its pinnacle and are truly a sign that Penfolds, under Gago’s inspiring leadership, has definitely come of age!

Merrill Witt New Yorkby Merrill Witt, Editor


Photo Credit: Drinkster

The 2010 Penfolds Grange and the 2008 Penfolds Grange are available on the Cellarit Wine Market

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May 05 2011

British Wine Critic gives Jim Barry Wines The Armagh Shiraz 2006 a rare perfect score!

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By

First Press reported this morning that Jim Barry Wines The Armagh Shiraz 2006 has received a rare 20/20 score from British wine critic Matthew Jukes: “With more truffles and well-hung game than a Piemontese banquet and so much latent power that it makes me feel bashful to even type its name, 2006 The Armagh is a perfect expression of its site and it is also an awe-inspiring encapsulation of the paradise that is the Clare Valley. For me this means that it is a rare 20/20 wine,” Jukes said.
 (Jim Barry’s Armagh Wins a Perfect Score for Australia in the UK, FirstPress, 18 May 2011).

Jukes tastes more than 15,000 wines a year, and since 2004 has published an annual list of the best 100 Australian Wines available in the UK.  Since the list’s inception, only three wines have received a perfect score. This year The Armagh shares the honours with the 2006 Penfolds Grange. (100 Best Australian Wines – 2011 by Matthew Jukes, 17 May 2011, Note: you can download the tasting notes on the website).

The Armagh is sourced from a 45 year-old vineyards on hills west of Clare, named after County Armagh in Ireland by the original Irish settlers. Matured in new French and American oak for 17 months prior to bottling, the wine the bottled without fining or filtration.

The family-run winery, started by Jim Barry in 1959, is now run by Jim’s son Peter and his two sons.

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Mar 03 2011

Great Advice from the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer on Interpreting Wine Scores

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator recently wrote an article about what he likes to tell people who are new to wine appreciation. (What Should Newbies Know? If you were teaching newcomers to wine, what would you tell them? by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator, 15 March 2011) It’s a great read, and I thought I would share with you his advice on how to interpret wine scores because it struck a chord with me.

Deduct two points from any score over 90 and add three points to any score over 80. This always gets a laugh. And sure, it’s meant only half-seriously. But it’s not bad advice all the same.

Everybody knows that only scores of 90 points and higher have power in the marketplace. So an awful lot of really good, worthwhile wines find themselves in the limbo of, say, 88 points. Like the Federal Reserve, folks who give scores have to worry about inflation. So they try to hold back on that precious 10-point spread between 90 and 100 points.

Consciously or otherwise, an awful lot of really good wines don’t get the benediction of a 90-point-or-higher score. Inevitably, perceptions get skewed. Life is unfair.

So my advice to newbies is to muffle the siren call of those 90-point scores by deducting two points and to increase the potency of the 80-point range by adding three points. Voilà! That delightful Bourgogne rouge that received “only” 88 points suddenly becomes an irresistible 91-point beauty—one that probably has an invitingly low price, too.

Sure, it’s a game, like choosing the third least-expensive bottle on a wine list. But I don’t see much of a down side (the 90-pointers will still be in the running), and there’s a helluva upside for many of today’s best wine deals.

Sometimes I still … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Grenache: Standing Tall as a Single Variety Wine!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By

Chateau Tanunda recently picked up the Single Estate Red Wine Trophy for The Everest Old Bushvine Grenache 2008 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London. The IWSC is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, so the trophy represented a big win for Chateau Tanunda. Here’s what the judges had to say about the wine:

Dark crimson purple to rim. Wow! What a seductive nose! The characters are almost decadent in their exotic power. Old vine complexity shines through here. Crushed raspberry, asian spice, loganberries, sandlewood, lavendar, chocolate mints, fruitcake, framboise, ferrous earth, leather, coal, cocoa bean … the list could be endless. Full bodied, lavishly rich and compelling in the mouth, layers that wash again and again over the palate, changing in ever more complex ways. Well. This is one of the most thrilling wines I have ever tasted.

I was intrigued that a single variety grenache had won because on its own grenache doesn’t seem to be a popular wine style. In fact, Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate argues that “the absence of a global grenache icon is something that hampers respect and recognition of the variety.” Grenache is typically used as a blending variety, think Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but as Martin observes “pure grenache is more common in Australia where clusters of ancient vines provide more incentive to bottle the vineyard separately.” (The Unsung Chameleon Next Door: Grenache Symposium 2010, Grenache: Playboy Or Nobleman? by Neal Martin,, September 2010).

Even so, only a handful of Australian wine producers make a single variety grenache. d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale is unusual in the sense that it is somewhat of a grenache specialist. Its portfolio contains eight wines with a grenache component and two single variety labels, The Custodian and The Derelict Vineyard. … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

A Great Week for Wine Tasting!

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By

Wow! A great week for tasting wine!

On Wednesday night we joined friends for dinner at the Glebe Point Diner in Glebe Sydney. Great food and a very interesting wine list with lots of international wines.

First we tried the  Jed Malbec 2007, an Argentinian wine made by three young Aussie winemakers in the Mendoza region at the foot hills of the Andes. Malbec, a native of Bordeaux, is mainly used for blends in France, but in Argentina they have made it a specialty. It was excellent – spicy bouquet, soft tannins and very smooth. I checked and it can be found in Australia for around $20 a bottle. Lettie Teague, wine writer for The Wall Street Journal, calls Argentinian malbec one of the world’s great wine bargains!

We also had the Chateau Masur 2002 from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The wine is made by Serge Hochar, Lebanon’s most celebrated winemaker and a bit of legend in the wine world. At the 1979 Bristol Wine Fair in England,  the wine press and prominent critics declared it “the discovery of the fair”. In 1984, the respected wine magazine Decanter named Serge Hochar the first ever “Wine Man of the Year” for his extraordinary achievements, determination and dedication to producing wines during the difficult years of the Lebanese Civil War.

The wine is made from a blend of different grape varieties: cabernet sauvignon, cinsault and carignan from vines grown at a 1000 metre elevation on a gravely soil with a limestone base, similar to the famed soils of Cote Rotie in Burgundy. The individual wines spend three years in the barrel before being blended and bottled and are aged for a further four years in the cellar before being released. The colour of the wine was very similar to … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Wine of the Week: McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By

Wine of the Week profiles a wine that has recently been making news!

In Monday’s post, The Hunter Valley: Worth a Closer Look!, I talked about how The Hunter Valley has a long established reputation for making semillon in a style that is unique to Australia. Well, the last few weeks have proven big in the recognition stakes for Hunter Valley semillon, and especially for McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005, rrp $65.

On Monday night, the Tempus Two Copper Zenith Semillon (Hunter Valley) 2003 rrp $55 was named 2010 NSW Wine of the Year. A few weeks ago McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 picked up the trophies for Best White Wine of Show and Best Other White at the Tri Nations Wine Challenge, an invitation-only show contested by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. (See Huon Hooke’s interesting article on the competition, of which he was also one of the judges, Matches made in heaven, Sydney Morning Herald 28 September 2010)

The Lovedale Semillon 2005 has also just been awarded the Principal Trophy for Single Estate White Wine at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London.

Both of these highly regarded wine shows set  international benchmarks for quality. Wines in the IWSC, for example, are blind-tasted by a specialist international judging panel and then a detailed technical (chemical and microbiological) analysis of the wine is made before any of the medal or trophy winners are announced.

Here’s what the IWCA judges had to say about the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005: “Watery pale lemon green colour. Light yet piercing aromas, florals, citrus and melon. The initial taste is almost tart yet dances on your tongue. Light bodied, insanely intense with a rock fall of minerality giving so much to the … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Wine of the Week: Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By

In my previous post, Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine 30 September 2010, I mentioned that five wines had been elevated to the ‘exceptional’ category. Langton’s describes ‘exceptional’ wines, of which there are now 17, as “the most highly sought after and prized first-growth type Australian wine on the market.” Langtons: Our Classification Explained.

One of the standouts of this newly elevated group is Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. According to Langton’s Fine Wine principal Andrew Caillard MW, “Tim Kirk’s ethereal Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is perhaps one of the most important advances in the development of Australian shiraz since the release of 1952 Penfolds Grange.” (Langton’s: View Classification V)

Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier is a product of a very fortuitous visit to the Côte Rôtie in Northern Rhone that winemaker Tim Kirk made in 1991.

Côte Rôtie produces fine wine from the Syrah (shiraz) grape, sometimes with a small percentage of the white wine grape viognier blended in to add an extra dimension to the wine.

Tim recalled his reaction to single vineyard barrel tastings of Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie with the’s Neil Martin: “Up until then, I was familiar with Australian mainstream models of Syrah, with blackberry, with warmer fruit, sometimes with a cola character, even chocolate. But here the wines had an ethereal dimension, a lightness of touch, the flavour profile more in line with red fruits with a complex spice element spun through the aromas and palate. The palate structure was different: finer, silkier and more succulent. It captivated me, it was a revelatory moment and I was completely smitten. Here was a wine of purity, finesse and elegance.”

Tim borrowed other winemaking approaches from Rhone valley and Burgundian winemakers to highlight the inherent flavours of the fruit: inclusion of whole bunches in the … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Orange: NSW’s ‘Coolest’ Wine Region!

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By

First Press reports that this year’s 2010 NSW Wine Awards is shaping up as a contest between the new emerging cool climate regions of NSW and the traditional regions of the Hunter Valley and the Riverina. The emerging cool climate regions of the Canberra district, Orange, Hilltops, Tumbarumba and the Southern Highlands took roughly half of the spots in the Top NSW 40 Wines, Cool-Climate Continues to Captivate Judges, First Press Newsletter 1 October 2010. The top 40 NSW wines were selected from over 800 entries by a panel of highly respected wine judges chaired by Huon Hooke.


The region of Orange has certainly emerged as a clear winner at this year’s Awards regardless of whether it picks up the ultimate prize of 2010 NSW Wine of the Year to be announced at the Awards Gala Presentation dinner at Guillame at Bennelong on Monday 18 October 2010. Five of its wineries are in the top 40 and its wines took out two of the nine trophies: Angullong Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2010 rrp $17 won the trophy for best young sauvignon blanc and Logan Cabernet Merlot 2008 rrp $25 won the trophy for best young red blend.

The Orange wine region is about 260 km west of Sydney. Noteworthy for its very high elevation, it is also one the coolest growing environments in Australia. Orange is dominated by the extinct volcano Mt Canobolas, which provides rich volcanic soils and moderates the hot summer temperatures to create one of the longest ripening periods in Australia – grapes are typically not picked until mid to late autumn. The combination of aged soils, high altitude, cool temperatures, ample sunshine, decent rainfall and long dry autumns, typically produce wines that have been recognised for their complexity, elegance and balance.

Wine critic Max Allen … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By

This week Langton’s released the fifth update to its internationally recognised Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. First published in 1991 to create interest and build demand in the fledgling Australian secondary wine market, the classification is considered a ‘form guide’ of Australia’s best performing and most prized wines.

Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines V comprises 123 wines under four categories: Exceptional, Outstanding, Excellent and Distinguished. As Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s explains, the rankings  “reflect the sentiment of a well-informed market rather than individual opinion.” To be considered, a wine must have 10 vintages behind it so that its track record and reputation, both of which are measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations, can be properly assessed.

Caillard has compared Langton’s Classification to the the Bordeaux Medoc’s classification system of 1855, referring to wines in the Exceptional category as Australia’s “first growths.” In some respects the comparison is apt, as the French wine brokers who devised the Bordeaux classification system also looked at the price history of the wines to rank each of the properties from first to fifth growths. But, unlike the static 1855 classification, Langton’s classifications are thankfully updated every five years, allowing wines to be demoted or elevated as necessary.

This year five additions were made to the Exceptional category:

Innovation, individuality and uniqueness are shared hallmarks of the five wines elevated to the ‘Exceptional’ category, according … Read the rest