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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

James Halliday, heavyweight champ of wine writing, says "never again"

James Halliday is the undisputed heavyweight champion of wine writing in Australia. 

He not only pens (literally) a weekly wine column in The Australian, and lends his name, and words, to a high-quality wine magazine, he also writes the annual James Halliday Wine Companion, the 2016 edition of which has just been released.




The annual is the undisputed "bible" of the Australian wine industry with producers knowing full well that a five-star rating from Halliday equates directly to increased sales. 

Since 1979, former lawyer Halliday has written or co-authored more than 70 books on wine, including contributions to the Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine and The Oxford Companion of Wine. A new edition of his Wine Atlas of Australia is in the works. 

Not for the first time, Halliday has spent much of the year writing not one, but two books. 

Released simultaneously with the annual is Varietal Wines, an in-depth look at the over 130 different grape varieties grown in Australia. 

"This is the last time - it almost killed me," Halliday says of writing two books simultaneously. "Thousands and thousands of words - I hate to think how many words."





And it is not just words; Halliday also still tastes for his annual, although he has assistance from Campbell Mattinson and sparkling wine specialist Tyson Stelzer. 

At 78, his workload is prodigious and the Brokenwood and Coldstream Hills founder rarely finds time to relax in his holiday home in Burgundy.




Over 8900 wines were evaluated for the new annual, which contains detailed tasting notes, ideal drinking windows and points. There are more than 1300 winery profiles (including 92 new wineries). 

Throw in vintage charts and cellar door information and this is an invaluable guide for anyone with even a passing interest in Australian wine - and a great Father's Day gift. 

My one criticism is that scores continue to be higher than anywhere else in the world with 98s and 97s scattered around like confetti. I guess it helps sell wine.

Varietal Wines is an equally fascinating book - but of interest more to serious wine lovers. If you want to know all about cinsaut or lagrein then you've come to the right place. 

Among the major awards announced at Tuesday night's annual launch:

Winery of the Year: Tahbilk

Winemaker of the Year: Peter Fraser, Yangarra Estate

Wine of the Year: Serrat Yarra Valley 2014 Shiraz Viognier

Best Value Winery: West Cape Howe 

Best New Winery: Bicknell FC 

Tahbilk owner Alister Purbrick said: “When my great-grandfather Reginald Purbrick purchased the Tahbilk property in 1925, he would not have been able to dream of receiving an accolade that means so much to our family and the broader industry as a whole. 

"To be able to continue his original vision for Tahbilk, and accept such an esteemed award from our own living wine legend, James Halliday, is a great honour. 


"I feel incredibly proud of all that the Purbrick family has achieved at Tahbilk over the generations and this award recognises our unswerving commitment to traditional winemaking whilst using innovative and sustainable viticultural practices."


Halliday Wine Companion 2016 is published by Hardie Grant on August 1. RRP $39.95. 

Varietal Wine is also published by Hardie Grant on August 1. RRP 59.95
   

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