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High Country wines reaching new heights

Publish Date: 20 Oct 2017

Authored by: Jane Faulkner

Halliday Wine Companion tasting team member Jane Faulkner shares the joy found in regional wine shows, plus some high-performing High Country wines.

For many years now, regional wine shows have been my preferred judging locales. On a personal level, it’s about getting a snapshot of the current vintage, which is invaluable, and then getting the chance to talk with the winemakers and growers who turn up at the exhibitors’ tasting. Best of all is this sense of community. A case in point is the North East Victorian Wine Challenge judged at the Myrtleford Football Club (a real who’s who of Aussie rules have played there, including the likes of Carlton’s Frazer Dale, Gary Ablett senior and Sam Kekovich. But I digress).

While the High Country includes the Strathbogie Ranges and the Goulburn Valley, this show focuses on the Alpine Valleys, King Valley, Beechworth, Glenrowan and Rutherglen. The wines from those areas are incredibly diverse and largely of a very high quality. I do chair the show, but unequivocally it’s a ripper – as is the view over the footy field towards the snow-capped Mount Feathertop.

Of the five regions, the Alpine Valleys might be least the appreciated. Big mistake. Get it on your radar because aside from producing excellent French varietals, including shiraz and chardonnay, it’s turning out to be the home of tempranillo and a nucleus for Italian grape varieties. This year some of the latter included vespolina, schioppettino, marzemino, nebbiolo, teroldego, refosco and a super barbera from Billy Button, which took out the trophy for best Alpine Valleys wine. Mayford’s exceptional tempranillo won the inaugural Chair of Judges trophy. However, all the gold medals in the chardonnay class came out of Beechworth, including Wine of Show the 2016 Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay.

A confession of sorts. Another reason why regional wine shows are the best is the fabulous country hospitality, which always includes scrumptious home-made treats for morning and afternoon tea, plus wholesome lunches and dinner with the local wines. It’s worth the extra kilos.

Three to try
by Jane Faulkner

2016 Mayford Tempranillo
96 points

It was by no means an easy vintage – a ferocious hail storm meant owner-winemaker Eleana Anderson lost half her crop. Being meticulous in the vineyard, she has crafted an outstanding tempranillo that’s utterly delicious. There’s a lightness of touch here yet it still displays concentrated fruit flavours of dark cherries, plus drops of kirsch, red liquorice and sarsaparilla, with well-handled oak adding structure, spice and more. Medium-bodied with surprisingly fine tannins and supple too. Great attention to detail and it shows. 13.9% alc.

RRP $38 | 2028 | Mayford Wines

2016 Billy Button The Affable Barbera
95 points

“I love my growers” winemaker Jo Marsh says and she always credits them, even on her labels. Tony and Josie Ferraro grow the barbera and they are definitely an affable duo. The wine’s a beauty. It’s jubey, juicy and bright, full of red cherries and berries with a hint of dried herbs and mint, yet it's savoury through and through. It has depth while remaining a drink-now barbera and one of the best. 13.5% alc. 

RRP $30 | 2021 | Billy Button Wines

2017 Simão & Co Sauvignon Blanc
95 points

Young and ridiculously talented winemaker Simon Killeen sources fruit from north east Victoria for his diverse range, with sauvignon blanc coming off a cool site in the King Valley. This is steely yet textural, flavoursome but reined in with bath-salts-like acidity. It’s mouth-watering with a varietal nod to passionfruit pith and lemon zest, but it branches out to include kaffir lime, nettles and pine needles alongside a slatey, saline sensation on the palate. Judicious and balanced oak influence results in a super-moreish drink. 12.5% alc. 

RRP $24 | 2021 | Simão & Co


Next article: Jane's Yarra Valley five to try.

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