Winemakers celebrate Montara award win

ARARAT - Montara Winery's 2013 Grampians Riesling has won the inaugural Steward's Prize at the 2014 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show.

Chief winemaker, Mr Leigh Clarnette said he believed a combination of factors contributed to the drop being awarded the accolade.

He said alongside fellow winemaker Ben Howell they had worked hard to perfect a wine that struck a good balance between acidity and sweetness.

"It has a style that we've developed to make it more appealing and friendlier, we wanted a wine that was more approachable with characters of enjoyment brought about primarily by the use of clean fruit," Mr Clarnette said.

"It has proven to be a wine where people find the bottom of the glass first."

A new initiative in 2014, the Steward's Prize is an opportunity for Stewards to test their palates, engage with the competition on a different level and gain a greater understanding of the judging process.

Run as part of the Steward's Judging Tutorial, 10 Gold medal-winning wines from different varietals were tasted. The Stewards selected their favourite and the wine with the most votes was declared the winner.

Lyndey Milan OAM, Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show Committee Chair, said the new award was an example of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW's commitment to fostering the industry at all levels.

"We are always looking for fun and innovative opportunities to provide learning experiences for our Stewards. This was a great initiative that was met with a lot of enthusiasm and I look forward to seeing it expand in future years," she said.

"Winning a Sydney Royal medal gives wine producers the opportunity to brand their product with a prestigious Gold, Silver or Bronze medal, something discerning wine lovers can look for when purchasing their wine to distinguish those winning wines from their competitors."

More than 30 trophies and 1100 Sydney Royal medals were awarded to entrants from across the country's top wine regions, with 48 percent of entries receiving a medal.

Discovering the taste of success was thirsty work for the 32 judges, who blind-tasted their way through a record 2,400 entries from 369 of Australia's best wine makers nationally.

Chairman of the judges, Iain Riggs, said this year's event highlighted the diversity, both regionally and varietally, of a wine portfolio that is increasingly demanding the attention of wine lovers both in Australia and around the world.

"This year, we awarded 30 more Gold medals than we did in 2013. This reflects both the excellent 2012 and 2013 vintages and the exceptional quality of some of the older cellared wines coming through," he said.

"It's also great to see more biodynamic and organic entries reflecting their current popularity with consumers. I expect this will be a segment that will continue to grow in quantity and quality."

Mr Clarnette also took time out to reflect and pay tribute to his winemaker partner and friend Kim Ludvigsen who passed away in tragic circumstances late last year.

"Kim was a great mentor for a lot of us in the wine making business," he said.

"If someone in the industry had a question he was your go-to-man, people just felt instantly attracted to him."

Clarnette and Ludvigsen Wines 2009 Shiraz took out the top class Red Wine of the Year award along with Best in Class in the Shiraz category at the 2013 Federation Square Wine awards.

Mr Clarnette said Kim wasn't just a grape grower, but someone who contributed to the community through a variety of ways including his volunteer work at the Men's Shed.

Full results from the 2014 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show are available at www.sydneyroyalwine.com.au/wine.

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