|Just some of the many wines arrayed for judging at the Citibank NSW Wine Awards|
At the forthcoming Citibank New South Wales Wine Awards, varieties from all 14 wine regions of NSW are represented. In 2012, 676 wines were entered and 311 medals awarded including 36 Gold, 75 Silver and 200 Bronze. This year I’m told, there are more exhibitors, but less wines. Either way, it’s a good sign for NSW wine.
My lesson in wine judging came at the hands of NSW Wine president, Tom Ward, and promotional head, Alex Retlief. We (yes, I was aided and abetted in this deception) were presented with a selection of six Semillon and six Shiraz bottles which we judged according to standard rules.
Now, you might say, ‘down the hatch’ is as good a test as any, but in this auspicious company, I had to make some effort at decorum. Next to me was Paul Gardner, the new sommelier at the revamped Park Hyatt Sydney, so I was getting plenty of sideways glances.
|Fake: This man is an imposter|
With the Shiraz, however, I was much closer to the mark. I can trace my family line back to the first Barossa settlers, so I should have some inkling at this varietal.
For those who’ve never judged in formal sense, there are three things to take into account: 1) colour, 2) nose, and 3) palate. In other words, sight, smell and taste. Each is weighted 3, 7 and 10 for a total of 20 possible points. 18.5 will get you a gold, 17 a silver and 15.5 will scrape in for a bronze.
Interestingly, I found my scores much closer to Alex’s, while Tom’s varied wildly. In one case, a wine (unnamed, sorry) received 17.5 from Alex and I, while took a flogging from Tom at 13. Forget about me for a minute, how can two experienced palates come to such a variance*. Chairman of judges, and doyen of the wine industry, Huon Hooke, explains.
“Judging is actually a democratic process as there is no perfect way to assess a wine,” says Hooke who has been judging since 1987, “we quite often arrive at a situation where one person’s gold is another’s spitbucket. That’s when we bring more judges in and retaste. You can’t be a stubborn egotist, one judge has to back down, and those that can compromise and accept a majority viewpoint are the ones who get asked back.”
|Tom (L) and Alex (R) joust with lush NSW Semillon in the judging room, |
while Huon Hooke adjudicates. Who will back down?
So, dear readers, do not feel put out if you disagree with your dinner guests about any particular wine, because I have it on good authority now, that even the best can have seriously split opinions.
For the sake of interest only, here is my judging of the Shiraz offered.
|Five of our six top NSW shiraz as judged by an amateur and imposter|
From left to right:
1. Lowe Block 8 2011 (Mudgee) 16; 2. Tulloch Pokolbin 2011 17.5; 3. Collector 2011 Reserve 14;
4. (bottle not shown*) 17.5; 5. Moppity 2012 Hilltops 15; 6. Carillon Feldspar 2010 18.5;
- Roderick Eime www.traveloscopy.com