Dan Traucki - from WineAssist.com.au - November 7, 2014
SIZZLING SYDNEY: Last week was quite something in terms of the wine scene in Sydney.
On Thursday (October 30) there was OUTSTANDING ON THE PIER, an annual tasting event which is part of the NSW Wine Awards. As the name implies these awards are only open to wines made in NSW. The really innovative and creative part of this show is that only wines which have won Gold or Silver medals at the show are included in this tasting. To create more interest and ensure greater attendance at the award ceremony/luncheon, the organisers only advise the wineries that their wine/wines have been awarded as #topwines (meaning either a Gold or Silver medal win) and thus can be included in the tasting at Outstanding on the Pier. HOWEVER, which medal the wine has won is not revealed until the presentation lunch the next day. To further sweeten the pot, all the #topwines are eligible for the People’s Choice Award. Our client, Spring Mountain Wines, won a Silver medal for their 2014 Hunter Valley Semillon batch #DA1.
The event is held at Pier 2/3 on Hickson Road Walsh Bay, where 100+ years ago the old timber and gal iron wharf would have been a hive of activity as part of the nation’s busiest port, with wool and wheat being loaded to be shipped to“the mother country” and other ships unloading all sorts of machinery and equipment, to keep our young country thriving. Today most of the Walsh Bay Piers are either, restaurants, apartments or luxury hotels, so it is great to see that one of the old buildings has been kept as is – you can even see the water below you through the gaps in the massive floor boards.
The tasting is held in two sessions, the first for the trade, which is not hugely attended in this day and age when the Duopoly of Coles and Woollies own most of the retail outlets. However, there were quite a few restaurateurs milling around. Then from 5pm onwards the paying public come in. The 500 tickets available for sale, sold out three days before the event. The attraction for consumers is that every single NSW wine on taste has won a Gold or Silver Medal.
There were wines representing every wine growing region in NSW, from the well known and venerated winery names like Tyrell’s and McWilliams, right through to brand new ones.
The tasting is enhanced by the presence of premium artisan food suppliers offering samples/snacks of a stunning assortment of NSW cheeses ~ condiments ~ as well as delicious samples of Asian noodles with duck ~ roast beef (a haunch of it being cooked over a brassiere out on the Pier) ~ beef sliders ~ desserts ~ and the most awesome herbed butter I have ever tasted, which went brilliantly with the fabulous sour dough bread from Brassiere Bakery.
On Friday, the Awards lunch was held next door at the waterfront restaurant, Simmer on the Bay. The major award went to the Nick O’Leary 2013 Bolaro Shiraz from Canberra which won the 2014NSW Wine of the Year. Among the other winners, Calabria Wines won three trophies, two of these were won by their 2013 Calabria Saint Macaire – a fabulous wine (which I had written about in the September issue of WBM). It won the People’s Choice Award as well as the Best Young Red Other Varieties Trophy. The third trophy for Best Sweet Wine was for their 2008 ‘3 Bridges’ Botrytis Semillon, which unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to try.
Overall, this was a well organised event that enabled the public, for $30 to try over 100 medal winning wines – the best in NSW.
Kicking off on Friday and going through to Sunday was the inaugural VINO PARADISO INTERNATIONAL WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL. Housed in the huge, old railway engine shed at Eveleigh in Sydney, it sounded very promising with 152 stalls, including over 80 wine stalls, beer and cider stalls and some 35 food stalls – covering all sorts of food from ice-cream to Russian crepes. Over the three days there were 31 different Master classes on offer, ranging in cost from $25-$45.
I arrived there at 3.30pm following the NSW Wine Awards luncheon and was told that – the day session finished at 4.30pm, at which time everybody had to leave, the evening session did not start until 5.30 and that I would have to purchase a new $30 ticket to get into the evening session. Given the choice of waiting two hours to get in or spending just one hour having a quick look around, I opted for the later. As I went to pick up a tasting glass, I was told that they were not included in the entrance price as is the case in every other wine festival I have ever been to, BUT that it would cost me an extra $5. The glasses they were using weren’t even XL5’s, but rather they looked like the sort of glasses one got in country pubs or RSL’s, back last century – i.e. they did nothing to enhance the wine in them.
Friday was quite hot and humid in Sydney and the engine shed being a huge, very old building, had by the time I got there, warmed up enough to resemble a sauna despite the fact that there weren’t many people attending. The few pedestal fans that were scattered around the place were merely disturbing the steamy air a little bit and within 10 minutes I was dripping wet with perspiration.
However, the stalls themselves were well laid out by region and genre and the map issued made them easy to find. There were some excellent wines there including the stunning sparkling wines from The House of Arras, which in my opinion rival many a French Champagne. Other notable stands were the five from Tasmania, whose wines were eminently drinkable especially those of Bream Creek – their Chardonnay is the closest wine I have found in Australia to a good, mid-range Burgundy, with those cheesy-leesy-nutty characters. They also make one of the only Schönburger (a rare German white wine variety) in Australia.
There were five stands representing overseas wines and four “multi-region” stands which included the ubiquitous Wine Selectors and a small outfit called Loose Goose Wines, with a portfolio which includes: 919 Wines from Berri (who make outstanding alternative variety wines) and Neil Hahn Wines from the Barossa (who’s Catharina Barossa Shiraz, an awesome wine, is made from vines planted in 1968).
Another area worth a mention was the Canberra section. It had only two wineries but they well represented what the area is capable of producing. The first was Mount Majura Wines who make excellent wines, including their 2014 Riesling which won two trophies at this year’s Canberra International Riesling Challenge and the second was Eden Road Wines. Eden Road made a BIG splash in 2009 when their initial vintage (2008) Long Road Shiraz won the Jimmy Watson Trophy. Since then every time I have tried their wines, I have liked them and been impressed. Their 2012 Chardonnay won a Gold medal at this year’s NSW Wine Awards. As I was about to taste their wines, the announcement was made that service had ceased and we had to leave straight away. Curses! Foiled again!!
So my verdict is that the event is a great vehicle for promoting food and wine in our most populous city, but that the organisers need to lift their game quite a bit in order for it to be professional and reach an acceptable standard.
Having being evicted from the big shed, I got a rude shock when I paid for the car parking – $20 for just over an hour – ouch, that is steep even by Sydney standards where all day parking down by the Harbour at Walsh Bay was $55.
Being Friday afternoon in Sydney, the normal 30-45 minute trip from Eveleigh (near the airport) to Hornsby (my accommodation) took a painstaking, 1 hour and 59 minutes. So on this visit I have been parked at the bottom of Sydney harbour (stuck in the tunnel), parked above Sydney harbour (stuck in traffic on the Harbour Bridge) and parked under a suburb (stuck in the Lane Cove Tunnel), I do like to visit Sydney, but boy am I glad that I live in Adelaide – our traffic woes are insignificant compared to Sydney’s.