26 September 2023

Winning Organics

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By Christine Salins.


For a wine to be certified organic in Australia, the grapes must have been grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. This environmentally friendly way of producing grapes relies on producers maintaining a natural balance in the vineyard to help their vines thrive.

The market for organic wines is still niche but the sector is growing as more and more consumers take an interest in issues around sustainability. Australian Organic Limited, the peak industry body representing organic producers, hosts annual awards to celebrate the wines and winemakers who are driving growth in the market.

This year’s Australian Organic Wine Industry Awards saw a record 238 wines from 53 organic and biodynamic producers judged. They represented 75 varieties, with lesser-known white and red varieties performing strongly. Entries came from 38 regions across Australia.

South Australia’s beacon shone brightly, with winemakers from four of its wine regions bringing home the top awards, along with medals for Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Grenache Blanc. The trophy for Wine of Show went to an Adelaide Hills wine, Ngeringa 2019 Single Vineyard Iluma Syrah, which also took out the award for Red of Show. Ngeringa also picked up gold medals for its 2019 Ngeringa Pinot Noir and 2018 Ngeringa Single Vineyard Summit Chardonnay.

The Barossa Valley is custodian to full-flavoured reds and some of the world’s oldest vines but it was a young Grenache Blanc grown by Tscharke Wines that made headlines when its 2020 Gnadenfrei White was named White of Show. The Tscharke family is a proud pioneer of the variety. “It’s a gem of a variety and thrives in arid conditions, which lends itself beautifully to growing under organic management,” says Damien Tscharke.

The diversity of Australian organic wines spurred the judges to this year create some new categories, including Best Newcomer, Best Left of Centre Wine, Best Park Wine and Best Chillable Red.

Minimum Wines, in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, claimed two of the new awards, its 2021 Hailstorm Special Pet Nat, a blend of Sangiovese and Chardonnay, taking out Best Park Wine award and The Colossus of Harry, a 2020 skin-contact Sauvignon Blanc, winning Best Left of Centre. Minimum’s co-founder and head winemaker, Matt Purbrick, loved the new categories and was delighted by the wins. “The Hailstorm was also the first Pet Nat we have produced so we are really proud to receive that validation,” he said. Only 150 dozen were bottled and they sold out within a month.

Best Newcomer award went to Margaret River producer, McHenry Hohnen, for its 2021 Apiary Block Chardonnay, while Best Chillable Red went to Orange producer, See Saw, for its 2021 Marge, a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend.

Following are a few of the medallists I’ve had an opportunity to taste. De Bortoli’s 2020 Organic Shiraz Field Blend reviewed in this column back in March was also awarded a silver medal.

Mount Avoca Estate 2019 Organic Shiraz, $32: I’ve long been an admirer of the elegant, cool-climate reds produced by Mount Avoca in Victoria’s Pyrenees. This one won a silver medal in the Australian Organic Wine Industry Awards. With blackberry, vanilla and cedar notes, it has velvety tannins and a beautiful long finish.

Brash Higgins 2019 SHZ Omensetter Vineyard Shiraz, $42: I first visited Brash Higgins soon after owner Brad Hickey planted his vineyard in McLaren Vale. It’s a pleasure to see how far he has come in the two decades since. This big, brooding Shiraz, generously flavoured with plum, licorice and savoury spice notes, won a bronze medal. Very smooth with a delightful, sweet earthiness.

Mount Horrocks 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, $60: This Clare Valley winery was certified organic in 2014, its owner/winemaker Stephanie Toole unwavering in her commitment to managing her vines and soils sustainably. This silver medal winner comes from a low-yielding vineyard in a very low-yielding vintage. Powerful and concentrated, it is a little herbaceous with beautifully integrated oak and a long finish. Very stylish.

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