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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.

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

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