Jim McMahon

Judging at the annual Concours Des Grands Vins Blancs Du Monde in picturesque Strasbourg is always a pleasure. This prestigious event pays homage to particular styles of white wines only, such as sylvaner, riesling, pinot gris, pinot blanc, gewurztraminer and white blends. In total, 929 wines were tasted during the six simultaneous contests and 268 medals were awarded — 208 gold and 60 silver. Our particular judging panel was headed by Mark Kuhn, a wine inspector based in Luxemburg. In order to be a panel chair, among other things, you have to speak English, French and German.

First up, we tasted grand cru rieslings (the crème de la crème). We had 14 in the flight and awarded two gold medals and six silver medals in this class; a very good start to the day. This was followed by gewürztraminer. We gave one gold and three silver medals out of a total of 13 wines but all agreed it was, overall, a disappointing class; too much residual sugar (RS) which ranged from 43-112g per lt. Then came the late harvest pinot gris class with 12 wines, all from France. Here we awarded six silver medals. Again, the wines were driven by RS. Then came the sylvaners, where four silver medals were awarded among 14 wines: a mediocre group. Pinot gris grand cru followed where there were 13 wines in the class with seven wines taking out silver, a strong class of quality wines. Our last class, 11 late harvest rieslings, were, generally speaking, disappointing. Having said this, we awarded three gold and two silver medals.

Most of the wines in this competition came from France and Germany but other countries including Australia (with just one wine) also entered wines together with Kazakhstan and Algeria, to name a few. Wakefield Wines (otherwise known as Taylor’s Wines here in Australia) won a silver medal for its Taylors Wakefield Estate Pinot Gris 2016.


Now for the wine picks: the O’Leary Walker 2015 ‘The Bookies Bag’ Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir displays a see-through purple colour with a bright pink rim. The nose is intense with raspberry, strawberry and spice. The palate shows intensity with nicely ingrained tannins allowing the fruit to shine. Blackcurrant, liquorice and vanilla flavours are nicely wrapped around the fruit-driven palate. The dry finish is long and flavoursome. It wouldn’t be out of place to marry it with a charcuterie plate with black olives and some fetta (rrp $25).

What’s the difference between a hot and cold climate savvys? There are many, but mainly, hot climate savvys do not have the racy acidity and are more in the tropical fruit spectrum whereas a savvy from a cold climate is more green, grassy, vegetal and herbaceous with racy or vibrant acidity. The Berton Vineyards 2016 Riverina Sauvignon Blanc is from a warm-hot climate region, the Riverina in NSW. Green straw in colour, the nose oozes ripe tropical fruits. The palate is soft and has flavours of citrus, guava, passionfruit and melon while the finish is dry, fruit-driven with soft acidity (rrp $12).

I’ve always liked the crispness and minerality of chardonnays from the Padthaway region and the Morambro Creek 2015 Chardonnay is no exception. A light straw yellow with green highlights indicating its youth, the fruit on the nose (like parts of the palate) is defined by a touch of minerality which gives way to mandarin, green apple and apricots with a zesty twist. The palate is refreshingly crisp with a mineral streak adding to its sense of place. A dry, crisp acid finish with good length of palate long after the wine has gone down the hatch (rrp $35).

Coming from the Langhorne Creek region of SA , the Mount Monster 2015 Shiraz is deep purple and the nose offers a myriad of dark berry fruits with vanilla highlights. Copious red/black fruits envelope the palate, which has a nicely rounded; the finish is dry with a firm/acid oak balance in this full-bodied wine. Next up comes the Mount Monster 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, with a nose of grapefruit, blackcurrant bud and gooseberry that cascade onto the palate. I always say that if you can drink two glasses of a sauvignon blanc then it’s a good savvy, and this is one of those wines. Both wines retail for $17 (rrp).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE