Jim McMahon

Judging for the third year at the Les Grandes du Monde Strasbourg was an absolute delight, tasting wines from around the world. This year saw 70 judges from 16 countries judge 766 wines coming from 20 countries. Only wines permitted in the Alsace Appellation are allowed to be entered into the show and these grapes are all white: pinot blanc, pinot gris, sylvaner, riesling and gewurztraminer.

For a wine to win a gold medal it must gain a minimum of 84 points; silver, a minimum of 82 points, and only 30 per cent of all wines can be awarded a medal. We tasted all the above grape varieties, which came from such diverse places as Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Lebanon, Luxenbourg, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland.

The sommeliers are trained by Antoine Woerle, who is the lecturer from the Lycée Hôtelier Alexandre Dumas of Illkirch-Graffenstaden, near Strasbourg.

They do an excellent job in looking after the judges and accompany us on sightseeing trips around Strasbourg and the wider region looking at vineyards and tasting wines in the small hamlets around this beautiful part of the world. More importantly, our hosts, Christine and Dave Collins, hold it all together and make this show all the more enjoyable and a pleasure to judge at each year.

This year saw only 19 entries from Australia, which is nothing considering there are more than 700 Aussie wineries exporting around the world combined with 1500 Australian wines available on international supermarket shelves.

It’s a great pity there wasn’t a larger Australian contingent entered into this show.

It’s not too often you come across a savvy from the Padthaway region of South Australia but here’s one, the 2015 Jip Jip Rocks Sauvignon Blanc: bright green in colour, the nose displays herbaceous pineapple, grapefruit and citrus notes. The palate is crisp and refreshing with lemon and lime together with loads of tropical fruit. The finish is dry and crisp with racy acidity (rrp $21).

Its stablemate is the 2015 Jip Jip Rocks Chardonnay, bright lemon in colour with green tinges around the rim. The palate is fruit-driven with hints of lime, pineapple and cucumber flavours. The finish is dry with persistent fruit and balanced acidity with a mineral streak (rrp $21).

How refreshing it is to be drinking a sparkling wine during the autumn and winter months — though I have friends who drink nothing else all year round! Mudgee-based Huntington Estate has produced a sparkling wine made from 50 per cent chardonnay and 50 per cent pinot noir.

The NV Huntington Estate Sparkling is pale pink with a fine, persistent bead (bubbles), which lingers in the glass. Brioche and biscuity notes give way to red and white fruit on the nose. The palate displays a creaminess which is due to stirring of the lees (contact with yeast) and gives the wine complexity, depth and flavour. The myriad different fruits combined with yeast contact adds to the enjoyment of this wine. This is a seriously well-made sparkling wine that can hold its own throughout the seasons when it comes to cellaring or food pairing. A class act (rrp $29).

Coming from cool climate vineyards in Hilltops, near Young in NSW, the 2014 Calabria Cool Climate Shiraz is deep purple with a bright pink rim. The nose oozes fruit with hints of peppery spice and blackcurrant/mulberry fruits and hints of mint. The fruit doesn’t jump immediately out of the glass but when it opens up, boy, does it work — typical of wines from cool climate regions.

The pristine fruit on the palate is more than evident with plum, blackcurrant. cinnamon, nutmeg and black cherry flavours coming to the fore. This medium-bodied wine is smooth with an impressive dry, lingering fruit-driven finish (rrp $15).

Back to Mudgee for a classic style of riesling which is bright straw in colour with green highlights. The 2015 Robert Stein Riesling has a fragrant orange blossom and kaffir lime aroma. The palate is crisp with refreshing pristine fruit such as white pear, lemon and grapefruit flavours taking centre-stage. This wine is ready to drink now but with careful cellaring will reward you further and develop secondary fruit characters taking the wine to another level. A ripe, crisp mineral finish with a firm acid grip (rrp $25).

And to finish comes the 2013 Mudgee Gold Red Blend, a wine made with grapes coming from Robert Stein (shiraz 35 per cent and vinifera cabernet sauvignon 27.5 per cent), Robert Oatley (shiraz 27.5 per cent) and Logan Wines (shiraz 10 per cent).

The nose is rich and complex with fruit and chocolate and spicy cinnamon notes. The palate displays opulent fruit and is richly textured. This medium-bodied wine has oak, acid and tannin in balance and delivers sophistication and continuous sensation on the palate. It is something special and requires sharing with someone special or at that great food, great company and great wine experience (rrp $60).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE