Pokolbin vignerons win gold medal

LATER today at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, Pokolbin boutique vignerons Bob and Maryanne McLeish will score the wine equivalent of a double ton.

In the pavilion of the hallowed arena the couple will receive a gold medal and the trophy for the best varietal semillon at the 2012 International Wine Challenge (IWC) awards presentation.

The McLeish Estate 2007 Hunter Valley Semillon, already a prolific gold medal and trophy winner in Australian wine competitions, claimed the dual London triumph and will now be one of the contenders for the title of IWC world’s best white wine to be announced in September. More than 10,000 entries from 50 countries vied for this year’s IWC awards.

Situated at 462 De Beyers Road, Pokolbin, McLeish Estate was one of the smallest producers in what is billed as the world’s largest and most prestigious wine judging.

The McLeishes have a mere 11hectares of vines and produce a tiny 5000 to 10,000 cases of wine a year. Their wines are made by contract winemaker Andrew Thomas.

The Hunter has been home to Bob and Maryanne for the past 18years and they run McLeish Estate with the help of their 20-year-old Newcastle University student daughter Jessica.

The enterprise dates back to 1985, when New Lambton-born and raised Maryanne and her Sydney mechanical engineer husband bought a block of land next to what is now the Poole’s Rock winery and began planting a vineyard.

The pair regularly travelled up from Sydney to Pokolbin to establish their vines and made their first crop of grapes into wine in the laundry of their Sydney home.

While they laboured away at weekends and holiday times they lived in an on-site caravan, which has now given way to a comfortable permanent home, a neat cellar door and plantings of semillon, verdelho, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

Earlier this year the IWC champion McLeish 2007 Semillon starred in the Sydney Wine Show, winning the inaugural David Clarke Memorial Trophy for best semillon of show and claiming a gold medal in dry-style semillon class. The wine, which is currently available, is reviewed today in Wine List.

AUSTRALIA won a record 69 International Wine Challenge gold medals, a tally that put it second behind the reigning champions, France, with 120 golds.

Portugal was third with 55gold medals and in the overall awards count France finished on top with 1136 medals, Australia was second with 673 and Portugal was third with 444.

Australian Vintage Ltd (AVL), which has a portfolio that includes the McGuigan, Tempus Two and Adelaide Hills Nepenthe brands, was the most successful Australian gold medal recipient, with seven wins.

Treasury Wine Estates’ Wolf Blass brand won six, Hardy’s Wines and Yalumba won four each and Treasury’s Penfolds wines won two gold medals.

AVL had further success in London when it was declared the Drinks Company of the Year at the International Wine Fair.

The award is given annually by Drinks Business magazine and covers companies in wine, beer and spirits from around the world.

In comments on the 2012 award, Drinks Business praised AVL for ‘‘taking a brand from its infancy to the top 10 most popular brands in less than six years, being universally commended by suppliers and buyers alike, and for being a key driver in category change.’’

AVL managing director, Neil McGuigan, said: ‘‘McGuigan Wines has just entered the top 10 global wine brands for the first time, and is currently the eighth largest global wine brand by value and the ninth largest by volume in the UK, a terrific result considering the brand was ranked 153rd just over six years ago. What an achievement.’’

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