My experience as an Associate Judge at the Barossa Wine Show 2015
In September this year I had my first opportunity as an Associate Judge at the Barossa Wine Show. On the Sunday before judging started, we attended ‘A Taste of Spring with Eden Valley Riesling’. This is an annual event and opens to the public. I definitely recommend going for anyone who has a love of Riesling. This year the 2015s looked fabulous!
Judging started on the Monday and we spent three days assessing, sniffing, swirling and tasting. Leading up to this I had been suffering from Bronchitis and a sinus infection. To my relief my nasal passages opened up sufficiently to allow me the much needed senses of smell and taste. I did however continue to cough annoyingly for the full three days of judging. Sorry to the other judges!
Matt Harrop (Silentway and Shadowfax wines) was our Chairman of Judges; a man who is comfortable in his own skin. Luckily he did not introduce any naked judging classes! (See the website for his family business SILENTWAY). Nudity in this situation may have been a bit distracting. Matt organised a judges dinner at Vintners restaurant. He brought along a huge range of wine from around the globe and each international wine was paired with a Barossa one. There were some beautiful wines, interesting alternative varieties and some great examples of Grenache from the Barossa and Europe. The food was fantastic. The wine pouring and wine commentary was spot on (we associates had to do that part…some kind of initiation ritual!).
There were a number of non-Barossan judges, including wine writer Lisa Perrotti-Brown from Robert Parker in the U.S. She was the special guest judge and put in the full contact hours like the rest of us. After being acknowledged and thanked by committee chair, Ian Hongell, at one of the judges’ dinners she replied “I’m not a guest, I’m a worker!” Having interstate and international judges, as well as non-winemakers added a broad perspective to the wine assessment.
Considering our business is so tiny, and 100% red focussed, I found the process of judging so many wines in this structured tasting format to be a highly valuable experience. Of course I am exposed to loads of wine (I do drink a fair bit after all!), and we regularly taste and assess other wines against our own in bench marking style exercises, but tasting in this format is quite different. In some ways the wine show judging process is a bit ‘unreal’; an environment foreign to any wine drinking experience. It certainly gave me an appreciation for how hard it is to get medals and trophies. There will always be some wines that don’t get through because they just don’t show up strongly enough in the show system. Just as a particular wine may get a lower score from one wine writer compared to another. For the producer this information is a contribution to the big bank of knowledge, experience and opinions of the winemaker. While for the consumer they gain a bit more information to add to their mental wine library and hopefully discover a new winery or wine along the way.