Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Harpers Wine Stars 2021: Australia

Published:  05 July, 2021

Highlighting the people and places wowing the judges in the Harpers Wine Stars Awards.

Talking Australian

Shiraz, as you might expect, showed its mettle here, along with some excellent Shiraz blends, pulling in high accolades. With styles ranging from more aromatic and leaner (for Shiraz) to fuller, spicy, rich wines, our judges agreed there is ample room in the market for both.

What was also notable, though, is how well other varieties performed, including flavoursome Pinot Grigio and poised Chardonnay on the white side, plus a medley of reds, including an excellent Mourvèdre, a five-star Durif, single vineyard Zinfandel and a Zinfandel/Petit Syrah blend.

Some of the red wines certainly packed a flavoursome punch, but the judges also noted there was a lot of balance and freshness in many, with drinkability to the fore. This blend of distinct character with approachability went down well with our tasters, reinforcing the reason why Australia is so popular in the UK. All in all a good showing from Down Under.

“Judging by what they said”

“The wines showed good value for money. The cheaper Australian wines, even in supermarkets, aren’t great at all. They’re really jammy and in your face. But for this price, these wines are very drinkable – £11.50 for the MWC Shiraz/ Mourvèdre, that’s brilliant. I liked the design, too.”

Peter Horton, consultant

“Australian categories had the standout wines Selwin’s Lot Shriaz Cabernet; Langmeil Winery, South Australia; Nugan Estate McLaren Parish Shiraz; Nugan Estate, South Australia; and Jip Jip Rocks, Morambro Creek Wines, South Australia.”

Pierre Mansour, The Wine Society

“Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz from Schild Estate was my top score for taste. Selwin’s Lot Shriaz Cabernet from Langmeil Winery, South Australia, was also really good.”

Laure Patry, Pollen Street Social Group

The stars behind the stars

Matthew Nugan & Daren Owers

Having bagged Star of Australia and Star Design for their Scruffy’s Shiraz 2018, Nugan Estate’s owner Matthew Nugan and chief winemaker Daren Owers talk Andrew Catchpole through the story behind the wines

How did your great grandfather come to set up the estate?

Matthew Nugan: He fled the Spanish civil war and landed in Australia in 1940, ending up in Griffith. It was pretty much a refugee town, and ex-war veterans came and they had to fend for themselves. Griffith

is 600km from anywhere. He was originally selling vegetables grown here via mail order then he got into a share farming arrangement with one of the McGuigan family. He grew wine grapes, among other things, and worked at wineries to earn some extra money.

How did you arrive where you are today?

MN: We were wine grape growers until 2000. Daren originally worked in our juice factory before he became our winemaker. And we were a big contractor back in the day for Southcorp, which is now Treasury. We wanted to control our own destiny, so decided to start making our own wine. We built our own winery and our first real commercial vintage was 2000.

You’ve since created many labels and tiers, working with fruit from several regions – what was the thinking behind this?

MN: We wanted a suite of wines from different areas across a range of quality levels. Our most economical wine probably isn’t considered cheap, and our highest-priced wine not hugely high, except The Matriarch, which is our equivalent of Grange, but still not extremely high. Our philosophy has always been to really overdeliver for what you are paying. We have the Nugan Estate range, which shows

the best of the regions. So it’s McLaren Vale Shiraz, Coonawarra Cabernet, King Valley Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, and Sangiovese, and the Durif in the Riverina. Scruffy sits in the personality range, they are single vineyard wines out of Riverina and are really trying to show what Riverina can do.

Who is the personality behind Scruffy?

MN: He’s a mate of mine, now retired from the vineyard. He’s a bit of a Crocodile Dundee sort of character, a rough diamond, who came from a truck-driving background... He’s pretty good value.

Daren, how was the jump from fruit juice to wine juice?

Daren Owers: I was a scientist/chemist. I did a lot of analytical work, it was extremely intensive and not quite what I was looking for, I wanted a crack at something else. Matthew’s mother Michelle said, ‘well, we’ve got vineyards, so why don’t you go and study wine science, we’ll put you through?’. It sounded like a good deal.

What was your brief when you started full time at Nugen Estate?

DO: It was always about making super-dooper products from premium regions. I’d studied in Napa, visited Bordeaux, and there were also consultants brought in to check my work was on track. It was high pressure, so I took a scientific approach to winemaking, but there was also a lot of experimentation to improve what we were doing.

Harpers Wine Stars is the only tasting competition to engage directly with buyers and consider your wines based on their full offering. Our judging panels are unique, in that judges must be current buyers with purchasing power and influence across the UK on and off-trades. Judges are drawn from independent merchants, wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants and the sommelier worlds.

To find out more or to enter Harpers Wine Stars 2022 and qualify for an early bird disocunt, please click here.