Golden moments

The Hunter shines throughout the 2019 Australian wine show season.

It will come as no surprise to local wine lovers that the Hunter Valley performs consistently well each year on the Australian Wine Show circuit. Our Semillon always punches well above its weight, regularly hauling in bags of trophies and gold medals. Shiraz and Chardonnay also get some serious attention, and in 2019 a few alternative varieties made the grade.

An eye-straining trawl through the results of wine shows held in Australia in 2019 revealed a fascinatingly varied set of awardees. Many household names appeared, but a few smaller contenders also popped up as chart toppers.

One wine in particular stood out: McGuigan’s 2013 Bin 9000 Semillon, which was awarded three trophies at both the Sydney Royal Wine Show and the Hunter Valley Wine Show, as well as gold medals at the Brisbane, Perth and Hobart Shows. No mean feat indeed.

Other strong achievers include Brokenwood’s 2019 Tallawanta Semillon, Thomas Wines’ 2013 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon, both Mount Pleasant’s 2018 Rosehill Shiraz and 2018 Mountain D Shiraz, and Tyrrell’s 2014 Belford Semillon, which was named Best Semillon at the 2019 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Small producer wines that stood out at local shows were Tinklers’ 2018 Poppy’s Chardonnay and RidgeView’s 2017 Impressions Shiraz.

To understand more about what these awards mean, here’s a quick 101 on the Australian Wine Show system:

Tasting wine all day sounds great in theory, but the truth is, it’s jolly hard work. Each year hundreds of dedicated wine industry experts volunteer their time to judge at the myriad of wine shows that take place across the country. The judges often have to tackle more than 100 wines a day, for days in a row. Their teeth turn black, their feet get sore, they spend all day spitting into buckets of kitty litter. They have to think clearly and objectively about every single wine. It’s certainly not glamorous, but it can be highly rewarding for all participants.

These talented judges, and the vast teams of volunteer workers that back them up, provide an incredibly valuable service to the Australian wine industry. All wines are judged on the basis of inherent quality. There’s no first, second or third prize, but rather wines have to clear a level-of-quality hurdle to gain an award. Roughly fifty percent of wines entered will win a medal (bronze, silver or gold), showing the high quality of wine produced in Australia. However, less than five percent will win a coveted gold, and just a handful of the gold medal winners will hit the jackpot with a trophy for the best in their category. Quite simply, these awards will help the successful exhibitors sell more wine. Their marketing job for the year is done.

The scores they receive will allow them to benchmark their wines against their competitors, and in many shows judges will go the extra mile to provide detailed feedback to exhibitors on each of their entries. While wine show judging is not an exact science, most Australian judges are highlytrained and experienced. Judges work in panels made up of a panel chair, senior judges and associate or trainee judges, so a cross section of opinions is considered in the aim of getting the right result. Our shows are extremely well-run, committed to innovation and integrity.

As Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Show Committee, I must acknowledge my bias here. But I do know what effort goes into these events. Most shows follow the Best Practice Recommendations set out by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology, which are regularly updated by an industry-wide committee. The Australian Wine Show system is a complicated beast, having grown organically over nearly two centuries. There are broadly four categories of shows: regional, state, capital city, and the rest. Regional and state shows feature exclusively wine from their particular wine-growing area.

Capital city shows are run by the relevant state Royal Agricultural Society and invite entries from across the country. “The rest” includes special interest or private commercial operations such as The Great Australian Shiraz Challenge or the Australian & New Zealand Boutique Wine Show. There is without doubt a degree of duplication, and if we started it all again, we would perhaps create a much simpler, hierarchical system. But the world has long moved past that option. And it does provide multiple opportunities for any one wine to shine.

Hunter winemakers might choose to enter the Hunter Valley Wine Show, the NSW Wine Awards and any of the seven capital city shows. If they are small producers they might also try their luck at the Australian Small Winemakers Show, the NSW Small Winemakers Wine Show, and the Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Show. There may also be some varietal competitions that might be of interest to them.

It is fair to say that not all producers participate in wine shows. Unfortunately there is no data available on how many engage with the system at some level, but I estimate that it would be the majority. Many only compete in one or two shows per year. Cost of entry, choice of show, attitude to the judging process, low stock availability and reputation risk are just some of the reasons why choices are made one way or the other.

What we do know is that the system is the envy of the wine judging world internationally and is considered by many to be one of the key reasons why Australian wine quality is so strong. The frequent intermingling of judges from different regions and industry sectors is perhaps the main reason why we have such a close and collegiate industry, so unlike countries such as France. In summary, it is a tough and rigorous process. Wine buyers can be confident that a wine that has snagged a gold medal, even more so a trophy, at a reputable Australian wine show is a top example of its breed.

Here’s a wrap up of top Hunter Valley achievers from 2019. Most are trophy winners, with additional awards noted in brackets. For a more comprehensive list of gold medal winners from the 2019 Australian wine show circuit click here.


• Audrey Wilkinson 2010 The Ridge Semillon
• De Iullis 2017 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga (Gold NSW)
• First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay
• McGuigan 2018 Shortlist Hunter Ridge Semillon, (Trophy NSW)
• McGuigan 2013 Bin 9000 Semillon, (Trophy SYD, Gold ADEL BRIS HOB PER)
• Mount Pleasant 2018 Rosehill Shiraz, BEST WINE, (Gold NSW)
• Mount Pleasant 2017 O’Shea Shiraz
• Tinklers 2019 School Block Semillon
• Tinklers 2018 Poppys Chardonnay, (Trophy HVB)
• Two Rivers 2018 Hidden Hive Verdelho
• Tyrrell’s 2007 Vat 9 Shiraz


Hollydene Estate 2008 Juul Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay – Trophy for Best Wine at the 2019 Australian Sparkling Wine Show (fruit sourced from Victoria).


• First Creek 2018 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay, NSW
• Margan 2019 Rose and Bramble, NSW
• McGuigan 2018 Shortlist Hunter Ridge Semillon, NSW (Trophy HVWS)
• McGuigan 2013 Bin 9000 Semillon SYD HVWS, (Gold ADEL BRIS HOB PER)
• Mount Pleasant 2018 Mountain D Shiraz, BEST WINE NSW
• Tyrrell’s 2013 Vat 1 Semillon, PER, (Gold HOB & NSW)
• Tyrrell’s 2009 Vat 1 Semillon, HOB CAN (Gold PER)
• Tyrrell’s 2014 Belford Semillon, MELB
• Tyrrell’s 2018 Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet, NSW


• De Iuliis 2018 Limited Release Shiraz, (Gold NSW)
• De Iuliis 2018 Special Release Tempranillo
• Hart & Hunter 2018 Single Vineyard Semillon
• Hart & Hunter 2017 Oakey Creek Reserve Semillon
• Thomas Wines 2013 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon, (Gold NSW Trophy HVB)
• Tranquil Vale 2019 Luskintyre Semillon


• Colvin Wines 2013 Semillon
• Comyns & Co. 2018 Reserve Shiraz
• Gartelmann 2019 Benjamin Semillon, (Gold NSWSM)
• Hart & Hunter 2018 Oakey Creek Reserve Semillon
• La Sila Wines 2018 Riesling
• Mount Eyre 2019 Monkey Place Creek Rose
• Peter Drayton Anomaly 2019 Vermentino
• Pokolbin Estate 2009 Reserve Shiraz
• RidgeView 2017 Impressions Shiraz, (Gold NSW & NSWSM)
• RidgeView 2017 Impressions Chardonnay, (Gold NSWSM)
• RidgeView 2018 Verdelho
• Silkman Wines 2018 Reserve Chardonnay
• Silkman Wines 2018 Reserve Shiraz Pinot Noir
• Thomas Wines 2013 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon, (Gold NSW Top Gold NSWSM)
• Thomas Wines 2018 Sweetwater Shiraz
• Tinklers 2019 Reserve Semillon
• Tinklers 2018 Poppys Chardonnay, (Trophy HVWS)
• Tinklers 2017 U&I Shiraz
• Tinklers 2018 014 Merlot
• Whispering Brook 2018 Basket Pressed Touriga Nacional


ADEL Royal Adelaide Wine Show
BRIS Royal Queensland Wine Show
HOB Royal Hobart Wine Show
MELB Royal Melbourne Wine Awards
PER Perth Royal Wine Awards
SYD Sydney Royal Wine Show
CAN National Wine Show, Canberra
NSW NSW Wine Awards
HVWS Hunter Valley Wine Show
ASW Australian Small Winemakers Show
NSWSM NSW Small Winemakers Wine Show
HVB Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Show