NEXT November at Pokolbin 12 young wine enthusiasts will get to taste a wine that this month fetched a record auction price of $700 for a 1950s Hunter Valley red.
The single bottle of Lindeman's 1955 Red Hermitage was one of a number of rare old vintages bought by Brokenwood CEO-chief winemaker Iain Riggs through South Australia-based Wickman's Fine Wine Auctions.
Auctioneer Mark Wickman said bidding for the wine was hotly contested and had pushed the hammer price from the reserve of $200 to the record $700.
Iain Riggs bought the wines in his role as a trustee of the Len Evans Tutorials which each year gives 12 young Australian winemakers, writers, retailers, sommeliers, journalists or enthusiasts the sternest and most rewarding wine course of their lives.
Described by James Halliday as "the most exclusive wine school in the world", the event gives scholars the opportunity to sample and comment on some of the finest, rarest and oldest wines from Australia and overseas.
The late Len Evans originated the tutorials to add young talent to the ranks of Australian wine judges.
Iain told me last week that the Lindeman's 1955 Red Hermitage he purchased would be opened at the 2013 tutorial's much-anticipated session on old Hunter and Australian reds.
Scholars at past tutorials had been lucky enough to taste such renowned Hunter reds as the Lindeman's 1965 Bin 3110 and Bin 3100 as well as Maurice O'Shea Mount Pleasant reds from the 1940s.
There had been 110 applications from all over Australia for the 12 places in this year's tutorial at Pokolbin in November.
Iain said the 1955 red had been made from grapes grown on the Lindeman's Coolalta vineyard, behind the Ben Ean vineyard, in McDonalds Road, Pokolbin.
Coolalta was planted in 1866.
Along with Coolalta, also planted was Cote d'Or, Maluna, Mangerton, Ivanhoe and Catawba - one of the great Hunter vineyards established by the Wilkinson family.
Tyrrell's picks up best wine award
THE Hunter this month continued its run of competition success with Tyrrell's claiming the trophy for the best wine of the Perth Wine Show and our boutique producers winning nine of the 14 trophies at the NSW Small Winemakers' Show at Forbes.
The Tyrrell's 2005 Vat 1 Semillon won the Perth show's Portavin Integrated Wine Services Trophy for best wine of show, the best white table wine trophy and the La Vigna Liquor Trophy for the best semillon.
In addition to the three Perth trophies, the 155-year-old Pokolbin-based family wine company won one gold, two silver and seven bronze medals with its semillon, chardonnay, verdelho and shiraz wines.
In the Forbes judging, Hunter trophy wins included best white wine of the show, the best red and the best boutique white.
The Mistletoe 2009 Reserve Semillon from Ken and Gwen Sloan's Pokolbin vineyard won the trophies for the best white wine, the best boutique white and the best 2011 and older semillon. The wine sells for $30 a bottle at the 771 Hermitage Road, cellar door. You can also contact Hermitage Road by phoning 1800 055 080 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill and Vicki Widin's Leogate Estate won three trophies, two of which went to the current-release $32 Leogate 2011 Brokenback Shiraz.
The wine was judged the best red of the show and the best 2011-12 shiraz and can be bought at leogate.com.au and at the 1693 Broke Road, Pokolbin, cellar door.
The Leogate 2011 Creek Bed Reserve Chardonnay won the trophy for the best 2011 and older chardonnay and will be available soon at $33 a bottle.
The judging panel was chaired by Hunter winemaker Andrew Thomas.
He was joined by Mike De Iuliis of De Iuliis Wines, Bowral sommelier, writer and consultant Deb Pearce, Jeff Byrne of Audrey Wilkinson Wines, Bryan Martin of Ravensworth Wines, Murrumbateman, Tom Ward of Swinging Bridge Wines, Cowra, and Jacob Stein, Stein Wines, Mudgee.
The show, which is in its 22nd year is open to all NSW and ACT wine producers that crush a maximum of 500 tonnes annually.
It is not open to any winery that is wholly owned or part owned by a large producer.
Annabel wins coveted scholarship
YOUNG First Creek winemaker Annabel Holland is the winner of the 2013 Alasdair Sutherland Scholarship.
The award, which was announced at the Hunter Valley Wine Show presentation luncheon, honours the memory of one of the Hunter Valley's most admired and respected winemakers Alasdair Sutherland, who died tragically at his Capercaillie winery at the age of 51 on December 7, 2007.
The award gives Annabel entry to the intensive, four-day Australian Wine Research Institute Advanced Wine Assessment Course and also the opportunity to be an associate judge at the 2012 Royal Sydney Wine Show.
Key winemaking appointments made
BOB Powell, who has held senior management roles with Tyrrell's, Pernod Ricard, Bond Brewing and Casella Wines, has been appointed general manager of the Becker family's Oakvale operation in Broke Road, Pokolbin. And in another key posting, Stewart Field has been appointed vineyard manager. Stewart has studied vineyard management in California and New Zealand, has done extensive research on NSW viticulture and holds a Charles Sturt University doctorate in the discipline.
Oakvale winemaker James Becker said the two appointments were important milestones for the 120-year-old Oakvale brand.
In another forward step, James will go to the US to work with Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci in the upcoming Californian vintage.
James, 31, a Charles Sturt University winemaking degree graduate and son of Oakvale owners Richard and Susan Becker, has previously worked in California.