Tertini's young winemaker has a bright future if recent regional show results are any indication.
Tertini Wines, based near the southern highlands town of Berrima, has won five of the nine trophies at the 2012 Australian Highlands Wine Show.
Its 30-year-old winemaker, Jonathan Holgate, starred with riesling and pinot noir. The 2008 Tertini Riesling won best riesling, best dry white wine and best wine of show while the 2009 Tertini Pinot Noir won best pinot noir and best red wine of show.
In a quirky finish, and unknown to the judges, Tertini's riesling beat Tertini's pinot noir for best wine of show. Prior to that, Tertini's '09 pinot noir beat Tertini's 2010 pinot noir for best pinot noir of show.
It's a far cry from this time last year when Holgate, who is married with two young children, was seriously injured when a loaded bin of grapes toppled and crushed him, damaging several vertebrae in his lower back. ''It wasn't the fault of the equipment or winery set-up,'' he says. ''I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.'' Holgate had several months off work to recover, resuming full-time at the start of this year. He is still on light duties.
The general manager of Tertini Wines, Robert Kay, describes Holgate as a terrific, highly focused winemaker, and a dream to work with. Aside from the trophy winners, and gold for its 2010 pinot noir, Tertini secured silver medals for its '09 riesling and '09 reserve noble riesling.
Holgate makes the wines at High Range Vintners, a contract winemaking company that has made wine for several highlands vineyards. Vintners and Tertini are both owned by furniture retailer Julian Tertini, who founded Freedom Furniture and, later, Fantastic Furniture. The original partners in High Range Vintners ran out of money about 18 months ago and Tertini bought it.
When he decided to diversify into wine in 2000, Tertini chose a site on Joadja Road that was planted 145 years earlier by pioneer Joseph Vogt. He didn't plant the same land as Vogt: his advisers chose a slightly better part of the same block in a more elevated site. There are now seven hectares under vine.
Back to the wine show. A bit of history: there was a Southern Highlands Wine Show for a number of years but it went into a two-year hiatus until it was re-invented with a national catchment. Only wines made from grapes grown above 500 metres can compete.
The local region continues to strongly support it with about half the 200-odd entries being southern highlands wines.
Other well represented regions were Orange, Mudgee, Canberra District, Hilltops and Queensland's Granite Belt.
The other four trophies went to Cherry Tree Hill Diana Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (southern highlands) for best chardonnay; Robert Stein Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2009 (Mudgee) for best red blend; Freeman Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Hilltops) for best cabernet sauvignon; and Z4 Wines Zane Shiraz 2009 (Canberra District) for best shiraz.
Holgate is optimistic about the southern highlands' potential. He has an outside consultancy with book retailer Berkelouw, which has a vineyard in the region and is about to get serious about wine, building a new cellar-door complex.
At least, he's optimistic about the cool-climate, early-ripening grape varieties, especially riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir, and says too many hectares of late-ripeners such as cabernet sauvignon were planted in the past. ''Our future depends on climate change, and whether the climate is going to get drier or wetter,'' he says. ''If it's to be drier, like Tasmania, we may see some of the later-ripening reds that we haven't had in the past. If it's going to be wetter, we'll need to focus even more on the early-ripening varieties and get more into sparkling wine.''
To that end, he is soon to release Tertini's first sparkling wine, a 50/50 pinot noir chardonnay 2009. It's ready to go and just waiting on labels. The highlands' leading winery, Centennial, has already done very well with sparkling wines and I keenly await Tertini's efforts.
Tertini wines (cellar door prices): Pinot Noir '09 $55; Riesling '08 $38; Reserve Noble Riesling '09 $26; Riesling '09 $30. tertiniwines.com.au. Cherry Tree Hill's Diana Chardonnay '09 is $30. See cherrytreehill.com.au.
Huon Hooke was a judge at the 2012 Australian Highlands Wine Show.
BRANDED FOR LIFE
Wyndham Estate has been named best major wine producer in the Wine Tourism Awards 2012 published by trade magazine Drinks International. The Hunter Valley property is certainly historic and hosts an active program of concerts, as well as a cellar door sales, tasting outlet and restaurant. But it has not been a winemaking site for many years. Most wines sold under the Wyndham Estate label are not Hunter Valley wines. It's really just a brand name. Surely a pre-requisite of such an award should be that the winery produces wine.
CHEERS FOR CHARDONNAY
Australian chardonnay continues its glorious run of attention in the international media, with a glowing review in the March edition of The World of Fine Wine. Mountadam 2010 topped the tasting, much to the delight of winemaker, Con Moshos, who for many years was winemaker at Petaluma and knows a bit about chardonnay. The tasting, by Andrew Jefford, Anthony Rose and Jancis Robinson, included many of Australia's most fancied wines, including Cullen, Leeuwin Estate Art Series, Giaconda, Penfolds Yattarna, Tiers Vineyard from both Petaluma and Tapanappa, Coldstream Hills Reserve, By Farr, Pierro, Philip Shaw, Tyrrell's Vat 47, Oakridge 864 and Shaw + Smith. The top nine wines came from nine regions, underlining the diversity of origin of our best chardonnays. Yattarna 2008 came second to the Mountadam, and the average alcohol strength of the most favoured wines was 14 per cent (range: 12 to 14.5).
BARONS DUB DONALD BEST
Seppeltsfield is a historic tourism drawcard in the Barossa Valley that produces wine these days. Its chief winemaker, Fiona Donald, was named Barossa winemaker of the year by the Barons of Barossa. The property was the home of the pioneering Seppelt family and has been given a new lease of life since it was sold by Southcorp into private hands and resumed on-site winemaking. It's always been famous for fortifieds, but table wines are the new focus. Barons of Barossa grand master, Stephen Henschke, says the award was highly deserved: "Fiona Donald is a great winemaker and this accolade is very appropriate, particularly as Seppeltsfield is starting to kick goals for their table wines." The wines have won a string of recent awards culminating in the most successful exhibitor trophy at the Barossa Valley Wine Show. At the same time, Donald has overseen the re-commissioning of the property's famous 1888 gravity flow fermentation cellar.
AN A+ FOR AUSTRALIA
Wine Australia's latest mega promotion, A+ Australian Wine Celebration, takes place from April 12 to 29, with events in wine regions across the country. It aims to emphasise the quality, diversity and value of Australian wine. There will be about 100 events, including tastings, parties and ''wine love-fests'' - whatever that means. See www.apluswines.com/en/a-australian-wine-celebration.