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Med makeover mops up medal for Monarchs of McLaren

Published:  06 November, 2019

Wine of Show at this year’s McLaren Vale Wine Show has gone to an Italian grape for the first time with Hither & Yon’s 2018 Nero d’Avola beating off 788 contenders to take the top spot.

Owned by brothers Richard and Malcolm Leaske, the pair were crowned Bushing Monarchs* for 2019 at the 55th Winemakers Bushing Luncheon in McLaren Vale last week.

The result is a hugely significant one for what is one of Australia’s oldest and best-known wine regions. Almost 80% of McLaren Vale is planted to Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and these two varieties have long dominated the top awards at the region’s Wine Show. However, climate change has seen a big spread of plantings of alternative varieties over the last 15 years.

Though currently only 3% of the region’s vineyard, plantings of Mediterranean varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo and Italian varieties like Nero d’Avola are increasing steadily - and winning over judges in the process.

“Throughout the judging we tasted some terrific wines and we saw a snapshot of the way the region is evolving: innovative blends, emerging varieties and more balance and freshness in traditional McLaren Vale varieties,” said David Le Mire MW, chair of judges.

The sentiments were echoed by Hither & Yon's Malcolm Leaske who described it as “confirming the environmental suitability now and in the future of such varieties” in McLaren Vale. “They can only get more popular,” he said.

Certainly, the Spanish and Italian varieties had a strong show this year. As well as the Hither & Yon Nero de Avola taking the top spot (along with Best Mediterranean Variety), Steven Panell won International Judge’s Wine of Show and Best Red Blend with his 2018 Tempranillo/Touriga, while Zerella Wines picked up Best White for their 2019 La Gita Fiano.

From a vineyard planted only in 2010, Leaske sees a bright future for his champion - and also for the variety in the region. “We have found Nero to be very strong and balanced, low input and good to manage,” he said. “No doubt we will continue to get more layers in the wine.”

* Bushing is a reference to an old medieval tradition whereby innkeepers would put olive branches outside their doors to show the arrival of a new vintage. The maker(s) of the top wine is crowned Bushing Monarch.