The 2009 George Mackey Trophy has been awarded to a little known McLaren Vale maker called Sabella.

And what a terrific result after Penfolds Wines have had a mortgage on this annual export trophy for the past three years.

The George Mackey is a memorial trophy judged annually between all wines exported-that means as the export inspectors do their daily task of tasting export submissions they are asked to put aside the names of wines which score highly-like gold medals.

At the end of the trading year for Wine Australia-an Australian statutory industry body managed as a corporation but established and run under Federal Government guidance, a big tasting of selected wines from the past inspection year-2008-2009 is held.

And that is where the Sabella Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 emerged. It headed 16,716 other export wines which were in contention this past year.

I have to admit that I do not know of this brand nor company, but that’s no big issue because I am checking them out for the first time.

The wine’s win was an honour for the McLaren Vale region, Sabella winemaker Michael Petrucci said. “My father (Joe) has spent 35 years in the region and I am committed to honouring his tradition and encouraging greater recognition of Australia’s fine wines”.

Sabella Vineyards was founded in 1975 by Joe and Rosa Petrucci on 15 hectares next to the famed Wirra Wirra. Joe and Wirra Wirra’s late Greg Trott became best friends.

The Petrucci’s now own 40 adjoining hectares and son, Michael, making wine since 1999, producing up to 4,000 cases a year, 40% of which is exported to Asia.

The wine giant Fosters Wine Estates have had a firm grip over this trophy by winning it three times on end with the brand Penfolds ; in 2008 with 2005 Yattana Chardonnay, in 2007 with Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, and in 2006 with RWT Shiraz 2003.

The previous year another unknown -Mt Toolleen Barossa Shiraz 2002 was a repeat of what Sabella has done in 2009.

There is clearly a trend amongst the wines which win the big red trophies-a strong representation from McLaren Vale firstly and the Barossa Valley second. These regions just keep re-occurring.

Both Shingleback and Scarpantoni winning Jimmy Watsons with cabernet and now another McLaren Vale cabernet coming up trumps here-in front of the great Australian cabernet regions-Yarra, Coonawarra and Margaret River. It has to be about drinkability!

And Michael Petrucci has every reason to be doubly proud – about his wine and the region McLaren Vale.

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