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Aussie and Kiwi wines honored

AUSTRALIAN and New Zealand wines dominated the showings at the recent China Wine Challenge, with wines from the two countries taking eight of the 19 gold medals awarded by a prestigious international judging panel.

The challenge is an independent wine competition that showcases offerings for the Chinese wine market.

With more than 180 wines tasted, it also provides a great snapshot for consumers trying to decipher the ever-growing list of brands appearing on the shelves of their local wine shops.

While wines from Australia and New Zealand have faced stiff competition in the cheap and cheerful price range from New World competitors such as Chile and Argentina, the judges were clearly impressed at what was on offer in the medium to premium range.

The challenge judges at the Hilton Shanghai on July 8-9 included accomplished wine writer and critic Steven Spurrier who is the contributing editor of Decanter; French wine journalist Michel Bettane and Lynne Sherriff, deputy chairman of the Institute of Master of Wines.

The Chinese winery Domaine Helan, which is based in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, won best Chinese wine for its 2008 Classic Chardonnay.

The judges cast a discerning eye over the list and, in an indication of the depth of the Australian and New Zealand wines, awarded them seven of the 15 silver medals handed out.

Three wineries from Australia and New Zealand received two gold medals for the wines they export to China.

Auntsfied Estate, the oldest winery in New Zealand's famed Marlborough wine growing region, won gold for its 2009 Long Cow Sauvignon Blanc and its 2007 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

The Reserve Sauvignon Blanc also picked up the award for Best New World White.

McLaren Vale stalwart d'Arenberg also took gold for its 2006 The Footbolt Shiraz and its 2008 The Hermit Crab Marsanne-Viognier 2008.

In a further strong showing from South Australian wines, relative regional newcomer Maverick Trial Hill from the Eden Valley won for its 2008 Riesling and its 2006 Shiraz.

Maverick Hill has demonstrated the growing sophistication and elegance of wines coming out of the Barossa Valley.

Distributed in Shanghai by Mecuris Fine Wines, the Maverick wines caught the attention of Spurrier who described both the gold medal winners as "brilliantly evocative wines with the clarity and harmony expected from a Grand Cru type vineyard."

Maverick Proprietor Ronald Brown - who owned a successful boutique vineyard in Languedoc before securing a picturesque site bordering the Eden Valley and the Barossa wine growing regions - says he has tried to apply a European approach to making Australian wines.

The Shiraz shone at the Mecuris Fine Wine Dinner held that same week, where it was partnered with roasted lamb from the kitchen of the Hilton's Leonardo's Italian restaurant.

The wine was a great partner to lamb with this elegant and understated Australian Shiraz displaying fragrant dark berries, thyme flavors and oaky complexity.

Unlike some other offerings from Australia, these vintners make their wine from a single vineyard and try to tell the story of each vintage through their wines, rather than produce similar wines every year.

Approaches such as this are resulting in a growing diversity of styles and nuance in the wines coming out of the Barossa wine region.

Major winners:

Best New World Red Wine: Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2008

Best New World White: Auntsfield Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Best Old World Red Wine: Delas Haute Pierre Chateuaneuf-du-Papes 2008

Best Old World White Wine: Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling 2008

Best Sparkling/Champagne Wine: Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV Champagne

Best Chinese Wine: Domaine Helan Mountain Classic Chardonnay 2008


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