German riesling a wizard of Oz and world's best

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CANBERRA, Oct 25 (Reuters) A German riesling has been named world's best in one of Australia's leading wine contests, dealing a blow to Australian New World wine hopes, already shaken by the worst drought for a century A 2006 Weingut Juliusspital Iphofer Julius-Echterberg Riesling Beerenauslese, from the Franconian region east of Frankfurt, was judged world's best in the recent 2007 Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

''The Southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia, dominated the dry styles, with the northern hemisphere dominating the very sweet styles,'' chief judge Louisa Rose, from top Australian winemaker Yalumba said.

The German wine, produced in a region famous for flat round bottles known as ''Bocksbeutels'', beat a 2002 St Helga Eden Valley drop from Australia's Orlando winery, which placed second.

''It's smooth and extremely elegant with a pleasant flavour that hangs around. You can still taste it five minutes later,'' contest chairman Ken Helm said.

The German wine beat New World competition from New Zealand, South Africa and the United States and also won top European wine among 489 entries.

Best South African wine was a 2006 Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling, while the top-placed US wine was a 2005 Chateau Ste Michelle Late Harvest White Riesling. New Zealand's 2006 Allan Scott Marlborough Riesling captured Kiwi honours.

Australia's current drought is expected to decimate the 2008 vintage and send prices spiralling in the 2.6 billion dollars export industry.

The vintage is likely to fall to between 800,000 tonnes and 1.3 million tonnes, compared with a normal seasonal crop of about 1.9 million tonnes, the Wine Grape Growers and Winemakers' Federation of Australia said last month.

Australian scientists have predicted global warming will threaten the existence of some varieties, with temperatures in most wine regions projected to rise by up to 1.7 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030.

Canberra, the national capital, is one region which may escape the worst climate shift, with its high elevation helping to offset temperature rises.

A little-known Canberra district red wine, Collector Wines Marked Tree Red, yesterday won wine of the year in New South Wales state, beating more fancied competitors from top-drawer wine regions close to Sydney.

REUTERS SKB RN1156

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