Trans-Tasman tussle for trophy

Max Crus
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Ata Rangi pinot noir from Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand

Ata Rangi pinot noir from Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand [©Max Crus]

Yalumba Oxford Landing Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Orlando Gramps Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Plunkett Strathbogie Ranges Gewurztraminer
Dromana Estate Verjus from the Mornington Peninsula

There's a lot of trophies on the Australian wine scene, indeed so many that one could get the impression that although there are more than 2500 wine grape producers in the country, there are enough trophies that just about everyone wins a prize.

However there is one trophy that stands head and shoulders above the rest in just about all categories of consideration: height, weight, nice design, history, longevity, importance, recognition in and outside the industry, significance, marketability and, remarkably, controversy.

Sadly, that trophy is the Jimmy Watson, not the Max Crus Trophy, which by comparison is tiny, lightweight, plain design, not very important nor widely recognised, and has little marketability.

Nonetheless it has history (13 years), isn't the slightest bit controversial, and best of all, rather than the namby-pamby narrow focus of the JW, a prize for one year old reds - whoopee do, how silly is that and you can't even buy them for years, and okay, they will have a little trophy on the label by then, but who actually cares about such things?

But enough sour grapes, the Max Crus Trophy is open to all comers. Well, as long as you send me a bottle, and actually, then, as this years winner found out, you have to send another for the photo shoot. Sneaky huh?

Indeed, so egalitarian is the Max Crus Trophy, that even a rosé has won it, and a poofy verjus too.

Furthermore the trophy is handmade by a local craftswoman, TP, who carefully selects a different timber each year - actually she just grabs the first bit of scrap she can find in her Dad's shed - camphor laurel this year, atopped with a beautiful Crown Corning tasting glass, bearing the stained remains of the winning wine. Classy huh?

Another point of distinction with the JW, which because of the judging criteria, can be won by simply tailoring a wine to impress the judges, is that I shift the goalposts every year for the Max Crus Trophy, thus giving it much more credibility.

Once upon a time it was awarded to the wine we drank the most of, then it was the best value wine, then the most interesting, then the most 'wow!' factor (that was a funny year).

But for the very first time ever, I am awarding the trophy to the highest scoring wine, and in 2008, that was...wait for it...drum roll please...dim the lights and put the 'follow-spot' on. Coonawarra's Zema Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Family Selection 2005, which scored 9.4/10.

Just quietly, Ata Rangi's pinot noir also scored 9.4, but they are from New Zealand, so hopefully they'll never find out. Well, then I'd have to make two trophies and how much would the freight cost to Martinborough?

So Zema's Cab (okay, and almost Ata Rangi's pinot) joins, from 1996, Seaview Shiraz, Jacob's Creek Riesling, Taylor's Cab Sav, Ingoldby Cab Sav, Banrock Station Shiraz Cab, Dromana Estate Verjus, Oxford Landing Shiraz, Fox Creek Shadow's Run Shiraz Cab Sav, Plunkett Gewurztraminer, Gramps Shiraz, Angoves Nine Vines Rosé, and Logan Gewurztraminer.

Congratulations to the winemaking team at Zema (and Ata Rangi), your trophy is in the mail (Ata Rangi, yours is not).


  • Central Ranges (NSW)
  • Mudgee (NSW)
  • Adelaide (SA)
  • Barossa (including Eden Valley) (SA)
  • Coonawarra (SA)
  • Fleurieu Peninsula (SA)
  • Limestone Coast (SA)
  • McLaren Vale (SA)
  • Riverland (SA)
  • Goulburn Valley (VIC)
  • King Valley including Milawa (VIC)
  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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