Tasting the Royal Queensland Wine Show

It never feels good to walk in half way through a speech.

There I was, confident I had made good time (the invitation had said 5.30pm for 7pm, hadn’t it?), making an evidently tardy entrance while Iain Riggs was in full flight recounting amusing anecdotes in front of a small, intimidatingly well dressed crowd at the RNA Showgrounds. I slipped into a corner as quietly as I could and took in the rest of the speech, which included an interesting point of view on the Queensland show’s recent conversion to one hundred point scoring.

I’ve never been to a post-show tasting before; some of my friends seem to be regular attendees, though, and through them I have formed an impression of lots of wine and an equal number of pointy elbows. Fortunately for me, I obtained an invitation to a smaller tasting of the wines entered into the show. There were perhaps a hundred very well behaved people there, and some strategically placed cheese platters, so no elbows were required.

A few impressions, then, of the wines. Firstly, the gold medal wines I tasted were without exception excellent, though I did start to understand what people mean by “show” wines. I tasted the medal winners after having made my way through the losers, and the latter never quite had the same impact as the top wines, whether as a matter of style or quality. It would be so hard for quieter wines to shine in these lineups. Nonetheless, the 2010 Annie’s Lane Copper Trail Shiraz, Grand Champion of show, is indeed a lovely wine, full of flavour and really well formed. I was especially taken with the 2010 Yalumba Signature Cabernet, which I thought excitingly pure and finely structured. Some nice Wynns Cabernets from 2010 also impressed. So no complaints in terms of the winners, at least the ones that I was able to taste.

The wines that were awarded lesser medals (or indeed no medal at all) were a mixed bunch and there will be always be, I think, outliers that should have been ranked higher or lower. Simply a function of the task at hand. What I found more interesting were the trends across styles and years. 2011 Rieslings, for example, were hard work. There are still very few Australian Merlots that seem worth the effort. And who the hell is buying all that Verdelho, Vermentino and Pinot Gris (not to mention the Viognier and Marsanne)? So, fascinating to wander through each class, and across classes, looking for connections. My palate was fairly tired after about a hundred wines, and I stupidly ensured it was ripped to shreds by tasting some Rare fortifieds at the end of the evening (I simply couldn’t resist). Still, I rarely get the chance to taste through so many wines in one go, so I enjoyed availing myself of the selection. Those show judges have a hell of a job.

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