Dan's Blog


Friday, April 28, 2017

Having spent Easter in Canberra this year, I thought it would be appropriate this week to report on some wine news from our national capital.

CANBERRA INTERNATIONAL RIESLING CHALLENGE (CIRC):  Ken Helm AO, who was one of the originators of the CIRC back in 2000 has recently retired from the position of Chairman, but is staying on as a member of its board. Since the start, Ken has been a major part behind the driving force guiding the Challenge from a regional benchmarking exercise through to the most significant international Riesling competition in the world. Ken’s replacement as Chairman is fellow founding member, James Service.

Ken will now focus his energies fully on the family business – Helm Wines, makers of excellent Canberra District wines, especially (of course) their Riesling.

This year with be the 18th CIRC and will be held in the Albert Hall, Yarralumla, 9-14 October, 2017 and is open to all Riesling producers from around the world. This international event usually attracts entries from nine of the largest Riesling producing nations, of which Australia is No.2 behind Germany. Other significant Riesling producing nations include: Austria, Canada, USA, France (Alsace) and Hungary.

On Saturday, October 14 there will be a trade and consumer tasting of the anticipated 400-500 entries in the Albert Hall. It is the largest Riesling tasting in the southern hemisphere. For more information and key dates please go to this link:

CANBERRA WAR MEMORIAL:  Canberra’s Australian War Memorial Director, Dr Brendon Nelson, recently announced that local family winery, Shaw Vineyard Estate, has been appointed as wine partner to the War Memorial. These wines will be served at all events and corporate functions held at the War Memorial.

Graeme Shaw the affable owner of Shaw Vineyard Estate, said that: “the family was incredibly proud of being offered the privilege of working with an institution as honoured and dignified as the Australian War Memorial”.

NICK SPENCER:  Eden Road’s ubber talented winemaker and all-around nice guy, has launched his own wine label – Nick Spencer 2016 Tumbarumba Chardonnay. Before joining Eden Road Wines, Nick had worked for Rosemount, Coldstream Hills and local winery, Madew. He has been making Tumbarumba Chardonnay for over a decade now, however, this is the first under his own label.

The Eden Road ‘Long Road’ Shiraz, for which Nick has become best known, has a very impressive track record. Starting with winning the 1999 Jimmy Watson Trophy with its very first vintage – the 1998. It has gone on to win several trophies at the Canberra Regional Wine Show and in 2012 it won the ‘Best Shiraz’ Trophy at the National Wine Show.

Given Nick’s track record, his wines will be worth seeking out to try.

PIALLIGO ESTATE:  While in Canberra we enjoyed a superb lunch at the recently revamped and re-opened, Pialligo Estate. Their restaurant, rather than being simply in one building is spread out among several pavilions on their picturesque gardens with magnificent views across their vineyard and olive grove. You can even see all the way to Parliament House in the distance. Each of the pavilions can hold up to 24 diners, and all have three open sides for unrestricted vistas, with clear plastic drop screens for the cooler, wetter, Canberra winter weather.

The food was superb and I loved the way that their wine list categorised the predominantly local wines under flavour profiles such as, “Crisp & Grassy”, “Stone Fruit & Spice” and “Creamy & Citrusy”.

The three wines that I tasted were:

Pialligo Estate 2014 ‘Profumo’: An interesting, smooth, rich and complex blend of Riesling, Sav Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier.

Pialligo Estate 2015 Cabernet Merlot:  A light, bright, cool-climate red with lovely plummy aromas. Smooth, round, plummy flavours and a tight grippy finish. Ideal accompaniment to delicious food.

Pialligo Estate 2015 Shiraz:  Alluring spicy notes on the classy bouquet of this medium-bodied, cool-climate Shiraz, with nice pepper overtones on the silky-smooth palate. The finish lingers for a long time. CLASSY!


In a city that has a plethora of excellent restaurants, this one is certainly worth a visit. It is also well known for its smokehouse produce – you definitely should try the Pialligo Smokehouse Charcuterie – delicious!

Also, a very special thank you to our wonderful daughter for treating us to this unique experience.

CANBERRA VINTAGE 2017:  The district’s growers are rapt with the rains they have received this season. For the first time, in a very long time, many growers did not need to irrigate their vines over the growing cycle. The volume of rain was such that for the first time this century there is actually water in Lake George, which until recently had looked like a huge green paddock. This is such a contrast to the mid-1970s when I can remember the lake was so full that the water almost lapped the sides of the Federal Highway that runs alongside the lake.

The Canberra District is predominantly known for its excellent cool-climate Riesling and Shiraz, however, in recent years a number of wineries have started growing innovative (alternative) varieties such as Pinot Gris and Tempranillo.

One of the adventurous proponents of innovative red varieties in the district is Mount Majura Vineyard which handcraft a sensational trophy and gold medal winning Tempranillo (Spain), as well as Touriga National (Portugal), Graciano (Spain), Mondeuse (France) and a delightful blend of Touriga/Shiraz/Graciano.

So next time you see a Canberra District wine in a bottle shop grab it. Or better still, if you have the opportunity to visit Canberra, please try their wines, as the District’s wines are worth seeking, trying and enjoying. Cheers!



At this event in Melbourne you will have the opportunity to try some of the best wines submitted to Winestate Magazine for judging throughout 2016. The tasting is open to Winestate Subscribers and a very limited number of passes are available to readers of Dan's Blog.


The winner of the Winestate Magazine 2016 WINE OF THE YEAR  was the sensational blend - 2012 Lakes Breeze Arthur’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Malbec from Langhorne Creek.


Date:    Saturday 6 May 2017


Time:    12 noon to 4 pm


Venue:  Nillumbik Cellars, 11 Chute Street, Diamond Creek (Melbourne)


To apply, please fill in the form below and submit ASAP as we only have a limited number of double-passes available:


* Required

I am over 18 years of age