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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

Attempting to refute the accusation of growing homogeneity in Australian wine and to provide proof positive of diversity and regionality, the Australian Wine Bureau and Sydney-based Langton's Fine Wine Auctions held a day-long, sit-down blind tasting of 113 wines in London on 12 May, presented by Langton's Andrew Caillard MW. The tasting was based on Langton's third Classification of Australian Wine, the unofficial but increasingly recognised roll of honour, but as well as classification' included cult' and emerging' wines,all under the heading of ultra-fine'. The consensus among the high-profile audience, including leading retailers, sommeliers and wine writers, was that the case was well-made, highlighting to a greater extent than is normally possible the marked regional (and vintage) variations. The expressed preferences of the tasters (who at the end of each flight were asked to identify their favourite among those dozen or so wines from the same variety) also afforded another example of how different UK trade tastes are from those of US critic Robert Parker. The 2002 Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon, highly rated by Parker, who has described it as the Screaming Eagle of Australia' (a parallel Langton's draws instead with Three Rivers Shiraz), was nobody's favourite wine in its flight. The tasting began with four Rieslings, which in a closing vote of thanks Hugh Johnson described as brilliant', and ended with 42 Shiraz wines which he praised as the world's best'. He said that after a recent trip to Australia, and after the day's tasting, he was frustrated' by UK criticism of Australian wine and sympathised with the defence mounted by Brian Croser in his WSET annual lecture in February (see Brand or authenticity?', Harpers, 5 March).