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Benchmarking of 2012 Tumbarumba Chardonnay wines

In December 2013, over twenty wines made with Tumbarumba chardonnay from the 2012 vintage were put under scrutiny at an inaugural Tumbarumba Wine Benchmarking event. The aim of the event was to examine the characteristics of chardonnay wine grown in the area. The event provided an opportunity for winemakers and local vignerons to get feedback on their wines.
Benchmarking of 2012 Tumbarumba Chardonnay wines

the line up

Measuring up

How does Tumbarumba really measure up as a region for growing wine? Chardonnay, the region’s flagship grape, is coming of age being planted in most vineyards in the area between 20 to 30 years ago. Its gained popularity as an input into some highend wines produced by corporates such as Penfolds, McWilliams and Hungerford Hill.  Smaller family-owned Tumbarumba vignerons are also bringing out wines under their own labels.  Winemakers around the Canberra district also seek the grapes.  Overall wines made with Tumbarumba grapes are winning accolades at wine shows around the country.


So just how good is Tumbarumba chardonnay? Members of Tumbarumba Vignerons Association (TVA) got a chance to hear what the experts had to say when the 2012 vintage was put under the microscope in early December 2013 at the inaugural Tumbarumba Chardonnay Benchmarking – an event like a wine show without actual scoring where the aim is to provide feedback to growers and winemakers.


With temperatures unusually hot for a December morning, 26 wine tasters made up of 16 wine growers, six winemakers, two wine researchers and two wine writers, sat behind sets of six voluminous glasses at tables donned with crisp white tablecloths in the Tumbarumba RSL Hall to blind taste 26 cool climate wines.


An expert panel of three wine makers - Jim Chatto (McWilliams), Nick Spencer (Eden Road), Adrian Lockhart (Hungerford Hill) and two wine writers – Lester Jesberg (Winewise) and Deb Pearce (feelance journalist) assessed the wines in brackets of six and shared their views.  Also present was recently awarded winemaker of the year, Tim Kirk, of Clonakilla.  Descriptions such as seductive, peachy, racy, citrus, florals, lovely fruit, regional minerality, gold medal winning, great lingering acid, great length were bantered around along with some interesting descriptions such as “a little bit duck pondy” and “Funky, bordering on gutted rabbit” (both in a good way). There was some interest in differences in how the wines were made in terms of uses of oak; malolactic fermentation; and blending of grapes from different vineyards.


The verdict?  Interestingly many winemakers tended to favour their competitors wines more than their own. Jim Chatto said the benchmarking had crystallised his thinking of where Tumbarumba stands in the landscape and would have awarded “a whole bunch of gold medals” for wines tasted on the day.  Nick Spencer pointed out that while 2012 was a difficult year for Tumbarumba grape growers there were some really good wines.  He would like to see a similar tasting of sparkling wines from the area. The range of wines emerging and the trend of getting fruit expression with texture excited Adrian Lockhart.  A strong message from both wine writers was for the area to focus on quality and stay premium with Deb Pearce declaring that the day’s tasting made her an even bigger fan of the area and Lester Jesberg acknowledging that Tumbarumba has come a long way.  He said he looked forward to the benchmarking not only becoming an annual event but one that would be marked on the calendar of many astute wine aficionados.


It looks like the bar has been set high and pressure is on local winegrowers to maintain high grape quality and on winemakers to maximize the potential of the local fruit.  Overall the benchmarking was a great opportunity for TVA members to get feedback on their grapes and wines. It opens the door for a wine show in the not-too-distant future.