Here’s cheers for 20 years of Riesling Challenges

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

The 20th Canberra International Riesling Challenge will showcase the largest collection of Rieslings in the southern hemisphere from October 14-19. This is a sponsored post.

THE 20th Canberra International Riesling Challenge will showcase the largest collection of Rieslings in the southern hemisphere from October 14-19.

Cameron Douglas MS (Auckland), one of six master sommeliers in Australasia, will chair the judging panel. The international judges will be Fongyee Walker MW (Beijing) and Anne Krebiehl MW (London).

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.

The 2019 Challenge has 500 entries from nine countries including what may be the first entry from China to an Australian wine show.

With record entries from the Czech Republic and Canada, and the return of Chile for the first time since 2012, the 20th Challenge offers the most diverse range of Riesling for several years.

All of the Riesling regions of Australia have large numbers of entries including the Canberra District with 30 entries in six classes.

This year’s Challenge will again have an Asian influence with the return of Fongyee Walker MW as a judge, and the appointment of two international stewards also from Asia.


Stewards pour glasses of Riesling for judging at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

International Stewards Program

As an adjunct to its highly successful stewards program, this year the Challenge has implemented an International Stewards Program which will allow wine industry professionals to experience the Challenge without the limitations of the blind-tasting process that is imposed on the judges.

As stewards they will see the wines on display before they are judged including their layout by style and region. CIRC allocates an associate judging position for stewards and the international stewards will be able to rotate through this position along with their Australian colleagues and experience judging first hand.

This year’s international stewards are Demi Yao and Gary Low CS.

  • Demi Yao is a WSET diploma-level student, based in Beijing and jointly sponsored to attend by Dragon Phoenix Consulting (Beijing) and the CIRC.
  • Gary Low CS is Singapore based, where he is head sommelier with the prestigious JAAN Restaurant, Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford.

Judging the wines

Judging will be held at the Albert Hall between Monday, October 14, and Thursday, October 17.

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. Regions are only revealed in the results catalogue.

Reflecting the international nature of the Challenge and Riesling, judges are drawn from overseas as well as from Australia. This year, judging will again be under the chairmanship of Cameron Douglas MS, from NZ, with international judges Fongyee Walker MW, director of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting, Beijing, and Anne Krebiehl MW, international wine writer and critic. The Australian judges are Jane Faulkner (Victoria), Alison Eisermann (NSW), Celine Rousseau (Canberra District) and Steve Baraglia (SA).

The Challenge also provides opportunities for people in the wine industry to further develop their knowledge of Riesling through appointment as an associate judge. This year the associate judges are Daniel Hetherington (WA), Tim Pelquest-Hunt (SA) and Carla Rodeghiero (Canberra District).

Enjoying Riesling

The event is about more than just judging wines, with a key aim being the promotion of the range of Riesling styles to consumers, winemakers and sommeliers through master classes, and a public tasting where consumers can taste all the judged wines, many of which are not available in Australia.

This year’s Riedel Riesling Master Class will showcase Riesling trends and styles from a growing international market and from an Australian Riesling region. The Hotel Realm will hold a Riesling dinner where its chef will match food with rare, award-winning Australian Rieslings.


British wine writer and critic Anne Krebiehl judges Rieslings at the Albert Hall.

Lots to learn and enjoy

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

Riedel Riesling Master Class – “Off the Beaten Track”

In another first, the Riedel Riesling Master Class has moved to the Thursday evening to allow more public participation.

The Master Class will be presented in two sessions featuring a Riesling expert presenting wines from a competing country and a second session featuring the Rieslings from an Australian region.

Daniel Hetherington, winemaker, Capel Vale Wines, will present “Rieslings from the Great Southern” and will guide participants through Rieslings of WA’s Great Southern Region including the sub-regions of Mt Barker, Porongurup, Frankland River and Denmark. One of Australia’s up-and-coming young Riesling makers, Daniel will contrast the wines from these sub-regions and discuss the impact of terroir on the wines.

Anne Krebiehl MW, wine writer and critic, author of the “Wines of Germany”, will present “Germany – Off the Beaten Track”. The Rieslings of Baden, Württemberg, Franken and Nahe. Combined, these four “smaller” German Riesling regions have a planted Riesling area greater than the area under Riesling in Australia and a Riesling-growing tradition dating back to the 13th century.

Thursday, October 17, 6pm-9pm, Hotel Realm, High Courtyard North. Presenters: Anne Krebiehl (UK) and Daniel Hetherington (Great Southern District). Supper included. Tickets $100, book at

Awards presentation and celebration of Riesling

Taste the 2019 award-winning wines and others from a museum collection while the 2019 awards are announced. This is a cocktail-style event with canapes and fine Riesling.

Friday, October 18, 5.30pm-7pm, National Ballroom 1, Hotel Realm. Limited number of tickets available, $85. Book at

Hotel Realm Riesling Dinner

The Hotel Realm’s chef will match food with award-winning and rare Australian Rieslings.

Friday, October 18, 7.30pm, Buvette Restaurant, Hotel Realm, $120. Book at

Canberra International Riesling Challenge ActewAGL Consumer Tasting

Taste the entries for yourself. This is a unique 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 2019 judging panel and stewards will be on hand at the tasting to answer questions on Riesling.

Saturday, October 19, 11am-3pm, Albert Hall, Canberra (trade representatives and exhibitors from 10am), $50. Book at Door sales also available.

Bookings and enquiries to or call 6286 7515. Booking links at


Riesling grapes.

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 distinct regional character.

In his book “Reading between the Wines”, Terry Theise writes: “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 altitude. While growing Riesling in the Canberra District is relatively new, the region has gained a reputation as one of the best Riesling regions in Australia and the world. Australian Rieslings are renowned for being mostly bone dry while delivering a fruity refreshment that is rarely matched elsewhere; Canberra District Rieslings certainly emulate this characteristic.

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.

Riesling develops more colour with age and because of this it is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Wine”.

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