The inaugural Premier’s Trophy for Victorian Wine of the Year has been awarded to boutique Heathcote producer Burke and Wills for the 2015 vintage of its flagship Vat 1 Shiraz. The new annual prize was launched at this year’s Victorian Wine Show to celebrate and compare the wines voted top drop at each of the state’s regional wine shows.
The results of the long-running wine show were revealed this week at the newly upgraded Mitchelton estate in Nagambie, with a mixture of veteran and up-and-coming winemakers from all regions of Victoria challenging for the trophies.
The much-lauded 2015 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Vineyard Pinot Noir took out Best Pinot Noir, Best Red and Wine of Show, while the hotly contested title of Best Shiraz went to the 2014 Blue Pyrenees Section One Shiraz and Best Museum Wine to the 2006 Grampians Estate St Ethel’s Shiraz.
The vibrant 2016 DogRock Grenache (pre-release) became the talk of the show by winning the Best Other Red Varietal trophy, signalling a bright future for cool-climate grenache in what has been a blockbuster year for the varietal on the Australian wine show circuit. Brown Brothers came out on top in one of the state show’s fastest-growing classes with the latest vintage of its 1889 Dry Rosé, which comprises shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.
Yarra Valley fruit proved the winner in the white wine section with the 2015 Helen and Joey Estate Alena Chardonnay collecting both the Best Chardonnay and Best White trophies, and Greenstone Vineyards scoring Best Sparkling for its Yarra Valley-sourced 2012 Methode Traditionelle Sparkling.
Meanwhile, leading marsanne producer Tahbilk cruised to victory in the Best Other Dry White category with the 2012 vintage of its 1927 Old Vines Marsanne. Best’s Wines rounded out success in the cabernet class (its 2016 Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon taking the trophy) with a Best Riesling trophy for the new vintage.
The Best Fortified title confirmed the supremacy of the Morris Old Premium Muscat on a rating of 98 points, while Rutherglen Estates picked up the Best Alternative White Varietal trophy with its 2017 Arneis. Rutherglen’s Pfeiffer Wines added to the region’s haul with the award for Most Successful Exhibitor, while Maygars Hill in the Strathbogie Ranges was named Best Small Producer.
More than 750 wines were blind-tasted at this year’s Victorian Wine Show by a panel of experienced local judges from different parts of the wine industry as well as visiting international wine show judge Jim Harré.
Chief judge Andrew Santarossa, winemaker for Santa and D’Sas among others, said: “This year’s chardonnay, pinot, shiraz and cabernet entries showcased Victoria’s strengths across a full range of styles, with vine age and mature winemaking decisions helping to ‘improve the breed’. The medal tally reinforced Victoria’s heritage with marsanne and that we should all do ourselves a favour by drinking more of our world-class fortifieds, and the museum entries proved we’re drinking many wines too young.”
He added: “There has also been a real increase in the quality and style definition of Victorian rosé, pinot gris/grigio is going from strength to strength, and the grenache class revealed some gems.”
DogRock winemaker Allen Hart, who works alongside his viticulturist wife Andrea on their vineyard in the Pyrenees, was one of many winners to highlight the contribution of female wine professionals to this year’s standout wines. He added: “Ours is a different style to Barossa grenache, it’s all about getting that beautiful red fruit without letting the alcohol overwhelm, and the fruit now coming off our 16-year-old vines is really special.” One of the strengths of small producers, said Allen, is that they can afford to wait for the perfect day to handpick and then get all the grapes off in one go.
The minimum production level required for wineries to enter the Victorian Wine Show is around 65 cases.
Humbled to receive the Premier’s Trophy after scooping four gongs at the Heathcote Wine Show back in August, Burke and Wills winemaker Andrew Pattison said: “We’re a tiny winery so this recognition just goes to show that Heathcote is shiraz, shiraz is Heathcote; this wine is absolutely made in the vineyard. We only produce 70-100 cases of it a year and I haven’t actually released the 2015 vintage yet because it’s mostly sold to our mailing list members already, but with all these awards I feel under pressure to!”
Andrew added: “I’d describe my winemaking as very simple and traditional, and the barrels are an important part of the story because the Francois Frere ones we use suit the wine very well.”
Victorian Wine Show director Robert Paul described the winning shiraz, which retails for around $36, as “showing the best attributes of Victorian shiraz in its richness and concentration without being heavy or overworked; just beautiful ripe fruit from an obviously low-cropped vineyard”. The Heathcote-grown winner stood out from the otherwise pinot noir-dominated field of finalists from the Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges and Ballarat.
In another new initiative for the Victorian Wine Show, now in its 36th year, Anthony Fikkers of Fikkers Wine was awarded a travel scholarship to assist with his research into whole-bunch winemaking techniques in France for the benefit of producers (and ultimately drinkers) back home.
View the full list of medal-winning wines at victorianwineshow.com.au.
Find out what all the fuss is about and
enter our exclusive competition to
win a dozen Victorian Wine Show
trophy-winners now >
Pictured top to bottom: Victorian Wine Show judges hard at work; Rosé class tasting table; Trophy-winning winemakers Chris Smales (Blue Pyrenees), Allen and Andrew Hart (DogRock), Tom Guthrie (Grampians Estate) and Hamish Thomson (Best's Great Western); VWS director Robert Paul presents Andrew Pattison and Heather McCormack of Burke and Wills Winery with the Premier's Trophy and a specially commissioned painting by Victorian artist Lynda Robinson; A selection of the Victorian trophy wines for 2017.
Read next: Browse the best Victorian wineries by region