Record entries set a big challenge for the Riesling judges

CANBERRA will host the largest collection of Rieslings in the Southern Hemisphere when the 19th Canberra International Riesling Challenge gets underway on Monday, October 15. This is a sponsored post.

Fongyee Walker… the Riesling Challenge’s its first international judge from China.

CANBERRA will host the largest collection of Rieslings in the Southern Hemisphere when the 19th Canberra International Riesling Challenge gets underway on Monday, October 15 until October 20.

Celebrating the golden wine that is Riesling, this year’s Challenge welcomes its first international judge from China as Ms Fongyee Walker joins the judging panel.

The event was conceived and grown in Canberra initially to benchmark Canberra District Rieslings against those from other parts of Australia. The Challenge is now an internationally recognised event and the largest single varietal wine show in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting competing wines from Riesling-producing countries and regions from around the world.

This year, the Challenge will judge a record

567 Rieslings from 240 wineries from six Riesling-producing countries. This is the highest number of entries in the history of the Challenge and comprises 410 Australian and 157 international entries.

For the third consecutive year there are record entry levels from Australia, record entries from France and the Czech Republic contributing to the highest ever number of European entries. US entries are at the second highest level on record and the highest since 2009; and NZ entries are at their highest level since 2014.

All of the major Riesling-producing regions of Australia have large numbers of entries, including 27 entries in four classes from the Canberra District.

The most stylish of grapes

Riesling is considered to be the grape that most reflects the region and the vineyard where it comes from, with some regions having a very distinctive regional character.

The quality of the wine is largely determined by the quality of the grapes. According to well-regarded wine importer Terry Theise, in his book “Reading Between the Wines”: “Riesling knows soil more intimately than any other grape, perhaps because it ripens so late in the fall and is thus on the vine longer than other varieties, and because it thrives in poor soils with deep bedrock strata into which it can sink its probing roots.  “Riesling is beloved of all who grow it for being so co-operative – the furthest thing from a diva. It survives all but the most brutal frost, is hearty in its resistance to disease and yields well without sacrificing flavour – perhaps because it ripens late in the fall when everything is taut and crisp and golden. Riesling wines are the afterglow of the contented world.”

Good-quality Riesling is confined to cool-climate wine districts, where the required climate is achieved either by latitude or by altitude. While growing Riesling in the Canberra District is relatively new, the region is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best Riesling regions in Australia, and the world.

Australian Rieslings are renowned as being for the most part bone dry while delivering a fruity refreshment that is rarely matched elsewhere; Canberra District Rieslings certainly emulate this characteristic. Semi-dry styles are becoming more popular because of their ability to match with a wide range of foods.

Unlike most grape varieties, Riesling can be made in a range of styles from very crisp and dry, to semi-dry, to sweet and luscious dessert and aperitif wines.

In some parts of the world the grapes are picked after they have frozen on the vines to make ice-wine, and for almost 200 years Riesling has been used to produce a sparkling wine known as Sekt. Both these styles will be amongst the wide range of styles to be judged at this year’s Challenge.

How the Challenge is judged

American wine judge Jim Trezise.

Judging will be held at the Albert Hall between Monday, October 15, and Thursday, October 18.

All the Challenge judging is conducted on a regional basis and is designed to promote and explore the regional differences that Riesling expresses.

The wines are presented for judging in regional groupings but to prevent any perception of regional bias the judges are only given the vintage and the sugar levels (style) of the wines.

They are not aware of the regions they are tasting. Regions with large numbers of entries in a particular class are broken up into small judging groups between the two judging panels to further hide their identity. Regions are only revealed in the results catalogue.

Reflecting the international nature of the Challenge and Riesling, judges are drawn internationally as well as from Australia.

This year judging will be under the chairmanship of NZ Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas, with the international judges being Fongyee Walker MW, Director of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting, Beijing and Jim Trezise, Founder of the International Riesling Foundation and President of Wine America from the US.

The Australian judges are Trent Mannell (NSW), Alison Eisermann (NSW), Greer Carland (Tasmania) and Steve Baraglia (SA). The Challenge also has a group of associate judges who are developing their knowledge of Riesling. They are Celine Rousseau (Canberra District), Rafe Nottage (Tasmania) and Will Gilbert (Orange, NSW).

Lots to learn and enjoy

During Riesling week there are opportunities to build knowledge and enjoy tasting some of the world’s best Rieslings among experts from Australia, Germany, NZ and the US.

Riedel Riesling Master Class – ‘Perceptions of Riesling’

Featuring Riesling expert Fongyee Walker who will guide participants through perceptions of Riesling in China – the world’s fastest-growing wine market and, increasingly, a wine-producing country. This session will include tastings of Rieslings made in China.

The second part of the master class will feature a journey through the high-altitude, sub-regions of the Orange District under the guidance of Bill Shrapnel, from Colmar Estate. Bill will present a range of Rieslings demonstrating the terroir differences across the region and Riesling styles.

Friday October, 19, 11am-3pm, Hotel Realm, Barton. Convenors Fongyee Walker (China) and Bill Shrapnel (Orange District). Tickets are $100. Bookings required.

Awards Presentation and Celebration of Riesling

Taste the 2018 award-winning wines and others from a museum collection while the 2018 awards are announced. This is a cocktail-style event with canapes and fine Riesling.

Friday , October 19, 5.30pm to 7pm, High Courtyard North, Hotel Realm, Barton. A limited number of tickets are available at $85. Bookings required.

Hotel Realm Riesling Dinner

The Hotel Realm chef will match five courses with current award-winning and rare Australian Rieslings.

Friday, October 19, 7.30pm, Buvette Restaurant, Hotel Realm. Bookings required, tickets are $90. Book at

Canberra International Riesling Challenge ActewAGL Trade & Consumer Tasting

Consumer tasting… an opportunity to tase some of the best Rieslings the world has to offer.

Taste the entries for yourself. This is an opportunity to taste some of the best Rieslings the world has to offer. Many of these Rieslings are not easily obtained in Australia.

Tickets are $50 and include a souvenir Riedel tasting glass and a copy of the official Challenge results catalogue.

A number of the 2018 judging panel and stewards will be on hand at the tasting to answer questions.

Saturday, October 20, 11am-3pm, Albert Hall, Yarralumla (Trade representatives and exhibitors from 10am). Bookings not required, tickets $50.

Bookings and enquiries for these events to or call 6286 7515. Booking forms at


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