Jim McMahon

San Francisco would have to be my favourite US city, a food and wine oasis with a laid-back pace and the friendliest people you’re ever likely to find in the US. The bars and restaurants are brilliant if you know where to look.

Judging this year for the 10th time at the San Francisco International Wine Competition was the highlight of the vinous year for me. This is because I have made so many friends, American and international, and we all come together once a year to not just judge at this show but to socialise and dine and drink at some of the best restaurants the city has to offer.

The San Francisco International Wine Competition was founded in 1980 and is now in its 36th year. It is the largest and arguably the most influential international wine competition in America today.

The thing about this competition is that you judge wines of the world from places such as Texas, New York, Washington and Florida or are drinking 30-year-old ports from Portugal. There’s a range of obscure grape varieties such as viura, furmint, junmai daiginjo, and obscure American hybrids, mainly from the Niagara region of upper New York state.

It’s an amazing competition and one in which Australian wines always appear to do very well. There were nearly 300 Australian entries entered into this year’s show, with a high proportion winning golds or double golds; Padthaway-based Morambro Creek comes to mind as a consistent winner of medals.

And now for some recommended wines ...

The 2013 Lowe Nullo Mountain Riesling is fragrant with lemon and lime with orange peel twist. The palate is crisp and dry with citrus, green apple and orange peel in abundance. Intense acidity, balance and flavour are the hallmarks of this wine.

Rieslings don’t come more expensive than this but I prefer my rieslings to be aged, preferably 10-15 years, and this wine could do just that. Cellar it or drink it now or perhaps it would make a great Christmas present for that riesling fan — moi (rrp $50)!

The nose of the 2015 Calabria Cool Climate Pinot Noir offers cherries with a whiff of French oak and the palate has plum, raspberry and cherry. The wine is medium-bodied with a dry, fruit-driven finish (rrp $15).

From the same winery comes the 2014 Calabria 3 Bridges Durif. This grape variety hails from eastern France and was propagated eponymously in the 1880s by a Dr Durif. It is a grape that is resistant to downy mildew (white cotton-like fungi where the leaf turns crisp and brown and falls off) but is hardly grown in France these days; perhaps a smattering here and there.

This wine displays a deep purple colour with a rich and complex nose of dark berry and plum. The palate is opulent with a rich texture of oak, tannins and a myriad of red and dark fruit, liquorice and chocolate all nicely mixed in. There’s balance, with no one element overpowering the other. A hearty wine of depth and flavour and one that would also cellar well (rrp $26).

From the top shelf of the Bryson family winery (known as Morambro Creek) in the Padthaway region of South Australia comes the 2013 The Bryson Barrel Select.

The fruit on the nose is rich and complex with French vanilla oak evident. The shiraz-dominated palate is intense with red/black fruits.

The finish dictates a full-bodied wine of immense quality and charm with no rough edges, and the cabernet component (45 per cent) marries beautifully in softening the wine and adding to the fruit structure. It comes at a price but let no price be a barrier to life’s enjoyment (rrp $55)!

Orange-based Angullong wines has recently released their 2016 Angullong Sauvignon Blanc. There’s grapefruit, gooseberry and green apple on the nose and the same flavours drop down onto the palate with great intensity combined with refreshingly crisp acidity. A crisp acid finish and lingering fruit make a snappy little savvy if I do say so myself (rrp $20).

Last comes the 2016 Berton Vineyards Vermentino, a white grape variety that originally comes from Spain and along the Mediterranean coast and parts of Italy, most notably Sardinia, Piedmont and Liguria.

This wine is a light, bright lemon colour with a green tinge. The nose is fragrant with pineapple, guava and other tropical fruit which come cascading down onto the palate. A lovely wine for spring and summer months and comes highly recommended (rrp $12).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE