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Judges' Reflections 2018 SIWC

Kym Milne - Chairman of Judges

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Kym Milne MW (SA)
Chairman of Judges

It was, as always, a pleasure to be Chairman of Judges at the 38th Sydney International Wine Competition, in my fourteenth year as Chairman.

Under the direction of Brett and Michaela Ling and aided by a very professional and experience back of house team the competition was once again run in a very professional and efficient manner. Michael Manners and his army of chefs produced the usual quality of superb food for not just the judging with food section, but for the whole week.

The smooth organization for the judging of 2000 wines by thirteen judges, with the added complication of the final 400 wines being re-judged with food, is a remarkable achievement by the very professional team who run this unique competition. The judging team this year consisted of some returning judges, as well as a good mix of new judges. Judges came from Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA and Singapore, and included a balanced mix of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Wine Journalists, a Sommelier and a wine lecturer/researcher. All judges stuck to their task with great enthusiasm and I thank them all for their professionalism and focus across the whole judging week.

This wine competition is all about providing the consumer with a range of wine options for a range of different dining situations, and I believe the competition has once again achieved this. It is pleasing to see not just diversity between the classes, but also within the classes, providing the consumer with some really interesting options of wines to experiment with.

In the Sparkling Wines class the French dominated this year with 5 of the 8 wines in the medal categories coming from Champagne, as well as the Sparkling Trophy. The other 3 wines came from the cool climates of Tasmania, Marlborough, and the Adelaide Hills. Champagne Lanson won the trophy not for the first time in this competition.

Riesling dominated the Aromatics category again this year, with 8 out of the 10 wines in the medal categories including the trophy winner.  Regions were widespread with Eden Valley topping the list with 3 wines, and then a spread of cooler Australian and New Zealand regions. Two Gewurztraminers from New Zealand and New England in NSW provided some alternative aromatic styles in the medal winners list.

The Semi-sweet white class had 3 wines in the medals, two Rieslings from New Zealand backing up a solid performance last year from New Zealand for this style, as well as a fresh and grapey Moscato from the Riverina region of NSW.

The Sauvignon Blanc class was again dominated by the Marlborough region of New Zealand, with a comprehensive 26 wines out of the 27 in the medal categories including the trophy winner.  A fume style from the Adelaide Hills that rated very highly was the only wine to stop a clean sweep by this classic Sauvignon region.

The Pinot Noir classes again produced a strong showing with 26 wines selected for the medal categories. New Zealand dominated the results with all 26 of these wines with 20 wines coming from Marlborough and 6 wines from Central Otago including the trophy winner.

The Rose category had 10 wines in the medal categories this year all from a range of regions in New Zealand and Australia. Pinot Noir was the most awarded variety overall in this category, although the trophy winner was a Merlot based wine from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.

The Lighter Bodied Whites class was both interesting and varied in terms of wine styles. The medal categories feature 16 wines made from Pinot Gris, Semillon, Albariño, Vermentino, Fiano and blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. 11 different regions spread across Australia and New Zealand are represented, from cool climates for some varieties to the warmer inland regions of Australia for others. This “horses for courses” approach to different varieties for different regions means excellent and diverse wine styles are being made across a broad range of regions. A lot of interesting wines to try here for the consumer.

The Medium Bodied Dry White provided 21 wines selected in to the medal categories. Moving into the medium bodied whites meant Chardonnay the predominant variety with 14 of these wines, 10 from Australia and 4 from New Zealand. Cooler climates predominated for these Chardonnays, with 5 Adelaide Hills wines joined by wines from Margaret River, Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Tasmania.  Along with these Chardonnays were some excellent Pinot Gris’s, Semillon’s (including the trophy winner from the Hunter Valley), a Viognier and a very complex Sauvignon/Semillon blend from Margaret River. Plenty of great wines to try in this class.

The Fuller Bodied Dry White Class was also dominated by Chardonnay, with 8 of the 10 places in medals being joined by an excellent Viognier from Marlborough and a classy Roussanne from McLaren Vale. Australia and New Zealand shared the honours with 5 wines each. The key to these fuller bodied wines was that they retained balance and freshness – what is considered full bodied these days would probably have been considered more medium bodied 10 or so years ago, with more restraint shown on ripeness and keeping oak characters in balance rather than as a dominant component.

In the Light Bodied Dry Red category much more diversely awarded than the last few years, with the 15 wines in the medal categories made from 8 different regions and 8 varieties including Malbec, Touriga Nacional, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and Sangiovese alongside the more traditional Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet blends and Grenache blends. The trophy was eventually awarded to an elegant Cabernet merlot blend from Margaret River over an excellent Syrah from Hawkes Bay and a Shiraz Cabernet blend. Some very interesting and elegant food wines.

The Medium Bodied Dry Red category was again the most successful category, with 65 wines being selected for the awards being the most of any class in the show. Australia was the most represented country in this category with wines from a range of warmer to cooler regions spread across the whole country. However New Zealand took out the trophy with an elegant Syrah from Hawkes Bay, narrowly beating a classic Shiraz/Cabernet blend from the Barossa Valley (which I have awarded the Chairman of Judges trophy to this excellent example of a classic Australian style). There are also an eclectic and interesting range of wines from other countries represented in the medals this year including wines from Portugal, Spain, Mendoza in Argentina and the Rhone Valley that are all worth checking out.

The Fuller Bodied Dry Red class had 44 wines in the medal categories. This class is rather unsurprisingly dominated by Australia, with wines from 20 different regions represented in the medals overall. The traditional regions of McLaren Vale (9 wines) and Barossa Valley (7 wines) played to their strengths and were the most represented in this class with some excellent wines, predominantly from stalwarts Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache blends, although also some interesting Montepulciano’s were represented.  This class also included medal winners from New Zealand, Spain, Portugal and Italy in a range of varieties and styles that will give the consumer plenty of interesting wines to experiment with. A very good quality wine from the little known French variety Fer made in Margaret River is a wine definitely worth seeking out from this class.

In summary, I am very pleased with the results from the 2018 SIWC and feel the consumer has a diverse range of wine styles to select from in this years award. I hope the results will provide encouragement and confidence to interested consumers to try a wide variety of options for different dining occasions.

Read Kym's Résumé

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