On Friday, the National Wine Show of Australia winners were announced at the National Press Club, with Adelaide Hills winery Murdoch Hill’s 2022 Rocket Chardonnay receiving the Prime Minister’s Trophy for Champion Wine of Show.

To qualify for entry into the National Wine Show, wines must have won a gold or silver medal at one of 32 qualifying capital city or regional shows. This year, 952 wines were entered from 236 wineries, with 23 trophies and 684 wines awarded.

The 2022 Rocket Chardonnay also received the Chardonnay Trophy and the Len Evans Memorial Trophy for White Wine of Show, and was up against the James Halliday Red Wine of Show winner, Devil’s Lair’s 2022 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, for the best in show award.

Judges described the 2022 Rocket Chardonnay as an explosion of flavour, and National Wine Show of Australia chair of judges Matt Harrop said that it stood out from the first round of tasting.

“The feedback from all 12 judges was just how much flavour this wine has. To get a Chardonnay with such powerful and precise flavours is due to a combination of a great vineyard that’s perfectly tended, with sensibly grown grapes and sensitive winemaking. It’s a great, great wine,” he said.

Murdoch Hill Chief Winemaker, Michael Downer, was thrilled to receive the award, and spoke about the high quality across all aspects of production at Murdoch Hill.

“All the stars aligned to make this exceptional wine. The Rocket is the culmination of years of refinement in the vineyard and winery to craft the highest quality Chardonnay possible. The introduction of a greater portion of grapes from our Lenswood vineyard brings drive and complexity, while a smaller portion of fruit from high in Piccadilly Valley brings poise and refinement to the wine,” he said.

This is the second time in a decade that a wine from South Australia has won the Champion trophy, and both have been Chardonnays.

“It is such a delight to see Adelaide Hills Chardonnay stand up and be counted as the best of the best. To say I am over the moon with the success of our 2022 Rocket Chardonnay is an understatement,” Downer added.

Awarded the Cabernet Trophy, Devil’s Lair ended the nearly decade-long year reign of fellow Margaret River winery, Xanadu, which had taken out the award for the previous nine years. Harrop described the wine’s exemplary qualities.

“The Devil’s Lair has everything you could want in a young cabernet – a lot of flavour, lovely colour, perfect aromatics. If you were going to say, ‘here’s an example of how good Australian cabernet can be’, you don’t need to go further than this wine,” he said.

Of the 23 trophy winners, eight were from South Australia, seven from Victoira, four from Western Australia, three from New South Wales, and one from Tasmania. De Bortoli netted the most trophies of any winery, winning the Shiraz Trophy for its 2022 Heathcote Handcrafted Shiraz, the Alternate Red Blends Trophy for its 2022 Ancient Soils Tempranillo Touriga, and the Rose Trophy for the De Bortoli 2023 Rose Rose.

One of the South Australian winners, Kirrihill, took home the Riesling Trophy for its 2023 Regional Series Clare Valley Riesling. Kirrihill CEO and Commercial Director Matthew Lawson said the award is a testatment to high quality of Riesling coming out of the Clare Valley.

“There are some magnificent regions that grow Riesling in this country, but it is always great to see the trophy back in Clare, the Heart of Riesling. It is a testament to the great team we have in place from the vineyard through to the bottle. The owners of Kirrihill are all very proud of the consistent awards the team have achieved and look forward to sharing in their continued success,” he said.

According to Harrop, this year’s sparkling selection was one of the strongest line-ups in the almost half-century of the awards’ history. There were three submissions from Tasmania’s House of Arras, with the 2015 Grand Vintage receiving the Sparkling Trophy.

“It’s unlikely we’ll ever see such a strong class again because a lot of the grapes that were going into sparkling are now being made into table wine. Sparkling can be more costly and time-consuming to produce as it needs longer in the bottle before going to market,” Harrop said.

Harrop was excited by the varietal trophies in this year’s awards and expects to see further awards for the category in coming years.

“We’ll see more and more whites such as Albarino, Vermentino, Gruner Veltliner, Fiano and Arneis, and reds such as Tempranillo, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Malbec, as these non-mainstream vines begin to mature,” he said.

The White Varietal Trophy went to Crittenden Wines’ 2018 Cri de Coeur Sous Voile Savagnin, an unconventional French varietal not previously seen in the awards. Produced using a traditional process from France’s Jura region, wine is aged under a layer of yeast, allowing it to slowly oxidise.

“It’s quite confronting as it’s not fruit-based but an oxidised style of wine. When done properly, it is a thirst-making, briny, salty, olivey thing with beautiful acidity and amazing length.

“People can expect to be totally freaked out by the Savagnin. It doesn’t smell or taste like your traditional white wine; it’s more akin to a fino sherry with a powerful, piercing palate. Crittenden has produced an absolutely outstanding example of this variety. It’s a really cool wine and I’m thrilled it won the White Varietal Trophy,” Harrop said.

Entries to the Red Varietal Trophy grew 20 per cent compared to last year, with Bleasdale Vineyards’ 2022 Generations Malbec winning the overall category.

“The growth of the varietals classes reflects the evolution of Australian winemaking. With the impact of climate change, many winemakers are switching from more traditional styles such as cabernet and chardonnay to Mediterranean styles that need much less water and can thrive in the drier parts of Australia,” Harrop said.

Margaret River winery Evans & Tate also received a gold medal in the Malbec category for its 2022 Single Vineyard Malbec, as well as two Top Gold Medals for its 2021 Redbrook Reserve Chardonnay and 2021 Redbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot. The Cabernet Merlot also won the Cabernet Blends trophy.

Evans & Tate Senior Winemaker Matt Byrne said that the award recognised the efforts of the Margaret River region’s founders.

“The team has worked so hard and intelligently on this tiny blend for many years now, and multiple vintages have been awarded on the national and international stage. We are very satisfied and proud of each other to say the least.

“It is also a very fitting moment to acknowledge Dr John Gladstones who passed away last week. Dr Gladstones’ research led to the birth of the Margaret River wine region, as he highlighted the suitability of the area to the red winegrape varieties of Bordeaux, which inspired the first vine plantings in 1967. For our 2021 Redbrook wine, which is a blend of three of these varieties, to be recognised as one of the Nation’s best, is testament to Dr Gladstones’ belief of the suitability of the region for fine wine viticulture,” he said.

Harrop remarked that Grenache has undergone a renaissance of sorts. Once considered a vineyard workhorse only suited to bolstering fortified wines, this year’s class featured three gold medal winners. Chalk Hills Wines’ 2022 Alpha Crucis Old Vine Grenache ultimately took out the Grenache Trophy.

“Australian grenache is in such a wonderful place at the moment. Over the past 15 years or so people have started recognising that these old vines, especially in warmer areas like McLaren Vale and the Barossa, if pruned and farmed sensitively, can make extraordinary wines,” Harrop said.

National Wine Show chair Andy Gregory said that the awards celebrate the Australian wine industry, and provide a boost to winning wineries.

“The National Wine Show shines a spotlight on the unique characteristics of Australian wines and the distinct regions in which they are made. It’s a celebration of provenance, authenticity and quality.

“An award at the National Wine Show equates to increased sales and brand profile for winemakers, and the winners’ catalogue is the ultimate buyers’ guide for people looking to drink or cellar the very best Australian wines,” he said.

“The great news is that wines of this calibre are affordable – you can pick up some of this year’s trophy winners for under $20, with several others retailing for under $40.”

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