Thursday, 14 July 2011

Australian winemakers may be the losers from decision to cut New Zealand show entries

New Zealand winemakers have reacted to their exclusion from the Royal Perth, Royal Hobart and Canberra National wine shows with a mixture of disappointment and we-were-just-too-good-for-them chest thumping.

"I can understand both those reactions and, in a way, I can understand the decisions of the Australian show organisers too," said Warren Mason, Director of the Sydney International Wine Competition.

"The state-capital wine shows were set up many years ago by Royal Agricultural Societies as a means of helping primary producers improve their produce by exposing it to a panel of their peers. The Canberra show came later as a sort of ultimate assessment of the best from the state shows' award winners.  Interestingly, for some time now, most of these wine shows have been inviting a token imported judge to offer an international perspective on their results.

"They invited entries from New Zealand when that country's wine industry was still fledgling and needed a leg-up in terms of exposure. That's completely changed now and the Kiwis are picking up trophies wherever their entries are welcome.

"And, of course, there's also the tit-for-tat argument that New Zealand's national wine show doesn't accept entries from Australia."

But Mason points out that the Australian industry may also suffer from the decision to quarantine our shows from New Zealand competition.

"The achievements of New Zealand wines in international markets might suggest our judges and winemakers have a bit to learn from what's happening across the Tasman and would benefit from more exposure to their wines rather than less." he said.

"The New Zealanders are generally making food-friendly wines, and consumers, not only in Australia but around the world, are responding very favourably."

Mason has no intention of curbing New Zealand entries into the Sydney International Wine Competition, which, apart from one or two varietally or style specific shows, appears to now be the only major Australian based show that invites entries from New Zealand.

"After all, ours is an international competition.  We invite entries from all wine producing countries. What is more, Australian judges are often in the minority on our judging panels,"  he said.

"Combined with our unique system of judging wines alongside appropriately weighted food, it has made our show much more focused on the needs of the consumer."

Another reason for Australian shows blocking entries from New Zealand may be the need to restrain total numbers and make the procedure more manageable for organisers and judges.

"At the Sydney International we do that by limiting total entries to 2000 on a first-in basis," said Mason.

"We only started accepting entries for our thirty-first Competition on June 6. In the first nine days we've already received 223 entries from 51 wineries, including 18 NZ wineries and, as usual, we'll reach the 2000 cap well before the September 16 cut-off date."

For further information on the Sydney International Wine Competition, please contact Warren Mason on +62 (0)2 4757 4400 or visit www.top100wines.com
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