Dan's Blog


Friday, October 06, 2017

It’s that time of the year again when the weather starts to warm up (before it gets too hot!!) and wine events flourish around the country.  This week we look at a couple of events at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is brand new and covers a broad spectrum of wine varieties. The other has been flourishing for 18 years and is focused on just the one “regal” variety. I hope you find it interesting.

CANBERRA INTERNATIONAL RIESLING CHALLENGE (CIRC):  For the 18th year in a row, the CIRC is on again in Canberra.

This year there are a few changes in that founding chairman, Ken Helm, has retired and been replaced by James Service (also one of the founding fathers of the challenge). Additionally, as the popularity of semi-dry Riesling grows (especially in the northern hemisphere), a trophy has been added for the best semi-dry Riesling of the show.

What hasn’t changed is the fact that this is the biggest multi-country Riesling event in the world. Sure, there are bigger Riesling tastings/judging’s in Germany, but no other Riesling event in the world attracts over 500 entries from all nine of the world’s leading Riesling producers.

Having attended and reported on the event for the last three years, I can tell you that this is a truly global and cosmopolitan event. There are even trophies sponsored by the German and American Embassies for the best Riesling from their respective countries.

The Trophy presentation is held at the Hotel Realm in Canberra on the evening of Friday, October 13.

The ActewAGL Trade and Consumer Tasting is held from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, October 14 at the Albert Hall, Yarralumla. Tickets are available at the front door. It is a brilliant opportunity to sample Riesling from around the world and experience the diversity of styles that this, the “King of White Wines” has to offer.

This event is world-class, so even if you can’t make it to Canberra for the Saturday tasting, I would strongly suggest that you go to after the 13th and check out the results.

WINE HEROES @ BARANGAROO – SYDNEY:  In contrast to the above, this is a brand new event that is using Sydney’s hottest new location, Barangaroo (the redevelopment of the old shipping wharves down by the harbour), to showcase a plethora of interesting, premium quality wines.

Held over three days starting Friday, October 27, it offers a fantastic opportunity to taste over 300 wines, beers and spirits, as well as the possibility of attending a number of great masterclasses – with each being run several times over the three days:

Pair Your Cheese With Wine

The Perfect Pairing, Wine with Oysters

Pairing Wine and Food With Celebrity Chef, Karen Martini

Wine Masterclass With Jeremy Oliver

Wine Masterclass With Tyson Stelzer

It is not often, in this day and age that one gets the opportunity to sample so many different wines at the one venue. You have the opportunity to try wines of the same variety, from different regions, as well as trying different wines from within the one region. Then, you can also assess whether you really enjoy wines being made from some of the new emerging varieties, or, prefer to stick to the old staples like Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz. Decisions, Decisions! But, the first and most important decision you need to make is to decide to attend this exciting and promising event.

Having decided to come along, tickets will be available at the door. However, you can save time and book through this link:

Some of the participating wineries that I can recommend from past experience include: Anderson Winery (Rutherglen), Cherry Tree Hill Wines (on the way to Canberra from Sydney), Eden Road Wines (Canberra), Symphonia Wines (King Valley – great Saperavi), Taylors Wines (Clare Valley), Vinden Estate (Hunter Valley), Yealands Family Wines (New Zealand), and one of my most favouritist winemakers, Gareth Trickey, at the mind-blowing, Warrumbungle Wines (NSW).

I’ll be there busy exploring and tasting stunning wines – Will you?


Last week I raved about the sensational Californian Zinfandels (Zin) of Paul Draper’s Ridge Vineyards, who for me, set the global benchmark for Zin.

This week I am carrying on about an Australian Zin producer and “Baron of the Barossa”, Joanne Irvine.

I first met Jo when I was the General Manager of Yaldara Wines at the start of the century and her dad, Jim Irvine (one of the greatest gentlemen on this planet), was the consulting winemaker helping us to lift the quality and profile of the wines at Yaldara.

Jo had just returned from a stint in California, where she had made and fallen in love with Zinfandel. She prodded the “old man” into planting some Zin and then produced her fist Aussie vintage in 2001.

I was totally smitten by this magnificent wine, which today, 16 years later, is still powering along (if the cork hasn’t failed it, as alas it has in a few of my bottles). Whilst I haven’t tried every vintage that Jo has made since then, each and every one of those that I have tried have been stunning and sensational. In my opinion, the best Zin in the Southern Hemisphere!

In 2014, Jim Irvine at age 81 sold Irvine Wines and started again with Cabernet Franc, so there has been a slight hiatus while Jo set up her own consulting winery. Jo’s, Wine Wise, has since made lots of gold medal and trophy winning wines for her clients.

Now as they say in the classics, “She’s Back”, with the recent launch of her own label, LÉVRIER by JO IRVINE.

So far I have tasted two of her wines and both have been crackers. The first being her Sparkling Meslier (which will outlive me and be stunning when I am “pushing up the daisies”) and the most recent was the LÉVRIER by JO IRVINE 2014 BAROSSA ZINFANDELOMG! What a wine this is going to be in a few years’ time! It has all the hallmarks of her past sensational Zins even though the fruit is sourced from a different part of the Barossa. It is bloody brilliant!!!

Right now it is a big, rich wine with oodles of delightful flavours and stacks of vanillin oak with a tight finish. Give it time to evolve and unwind/relax and it will be breathtakingly smooth and divine.

Enough said. I am off to see how I can raid the piggy bank and buy a few bottles to drool over in a decade’s time, when it has achieved perfection.

By the way I am lucky enough to still have one or two bottles of the Irvine 2001 and 2002 Zinfandel tucked away in my cellar, for very special celebratory occasions. Cheers!