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Judges' Reflections 2014 SIWC

Kym Milne MW - 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 34th Sydney International Wine Competition, in my tenth year as Chairman. The fact that I have been Chairman of Judges for this Competition for a decade now is a great compliment to the Conveners and the team of people that run this Competition. 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. The Competition is always seeking to improve with small tweaks here and there on how things are run, constantly seeking improvement, but this never seems to affect what is a well-oiled machine, only improve it.

The judging team this year consisted of some returning judges, as well as a good mix of new judges, who all showed great dedication to the judging as well as well as providing some good humoured banter in the breaks and leisure periods. I thank them for making the Competition a pleasure to Chair.

This wine Competition is all about providing the consumer with wine options for a range of different dining situations and I believe the Competition has once again achieved this. A real diversity of wine styles produced from an ever increasing range of grape varieties have been awarded either TOP 1OO, Blue-Gold or Highly Commended status. It is pleasing to see not just diversity between the classes, but also within the classes, providing the consumer with some really interesting wine options with which to experiment.

In the Sparkling Wines class, a range of styles from Australia, New Zealand and France were selected. Tasmania was the standout region for the first time, with 4 wines out of the 12 in both the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. This is a good reflection of the great improvements and the high quality of sparkling wines now coming out of this region. The French had 3 Champagnes in these categories (all 3 in the TOP 1OO) with New Zealand having a lower than usual 2 wines Award winners.

Australian Riesling was the success story of the Aromatics category this year, with an outstanding 15 out of the 18 wines in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Six Australian regions are represented showing the diversity of locations and climates in Australia where this excellent variety can produce high quality wines.  Breaking the Riesling hold of the class were an excellent Gewürztraminer, a Riesling from Nelson, another from Marlborough in New Zealand respectively, plus a classic Alsace Riesling.

The new Semi-Sweet Aromatics class was trialled for the first time this year with great success and some very interesting results. France dominated the category with 4 wines from Alsace out of the 11 in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. New Zealand also showed its strength in producing this style of wine, with 6 of the 12 wines selected in these top two levels.

The Sauvignon Blanc class for the first time in many years was not a clean sweep for New Zealand in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Whilst Marlborough was unsurprisingly and deservedly the strongest region with 22 of the 26 wines in these two categories, there were 4 Australian Sauvignon Blancs from the cooler climes of South Australia that made the list.

The Lighter Bodied Whites class has produced an interesting and varied range of dry whites. Classic Australian Semillon, some with some aged complexity, as well as some Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends provided the backbone of the class. However, there is some excellent diversity in the awards providing the consumer with an intriguing range of options from which to select. Two Italian whites, a Portuguese white and a French Pinot Blanc from Alsace give the northern hemisphere a strong representation in the awards. Add to that a Grüner Veltliner and a Pinot Gris from New Zealand and an elegant Chardonnay from Tasmania and there is a wealth of interesting lighter bodied whites from which to choose.

The Medium Bodied Dry White class performed strongly this year, with 26 wines from a wide range of Australian and New Zealand regions being selected in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Looking at the range of varieties in the list, it is evident that the range of high quality wines now on offer from Australia and New Zealand is much changed from ten or fifteen years ago. Eleven elegant Chardonnay’s, predominately from cooler regions, are joined by 7 Pinot Gris, 2 Fianos, and then individual award winners from Grüner Veltliner, Albarino, Viognier, and a Sauvignon/Semillon blend.  A results list that a few years ago would only have been possible in a European Competition.

The Fuller Bodied Dry White class is the domain of Chardonnay, with 14 of the 17 places in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold lists being awarded to the variety. Australia dominated the Chardonnays with only one NZ Chardonnay stopping a clean sweep for Australia of the variety in this class. This reflects the strong resurgence of Australian Chardonnay in recent years, with some very stylish wines in the awards. Also pleasing is the number of regions represented, with 10 different Australian regions being represented amongst these Chardonnays.  The huge improvement in the style and quality of Australian Chardonnay is a story that needs to be told at every opportunity, and I would strongly recommend these wines for consumers to try.  Especially those consumers that moved away from Chardonnay a few years ago.  You will be amazed by the complexity, elegance and diversity that now exists in Australian Chardonnay. Also in the top awards of the class were a full bodied Pinot Gris and a classy Grüner Veltliner from Marlborough, as well as a Viognier from the Barossa Valley.

The Pinot Noir class produced a strong showing with 33 wines selected for the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. New Zealand dominated the results with 27 wines predominately from the Pinot powerhouse regions of Central Otago and Marlborough, as well as some from Martinborough and one from Waipara. Tasmania had 4 Pinot Noirs in the TOP 1OO/Blue-Gold category, the strongest showing yet for this region in this show, and a very positive reflection of the excellent work that is being done with Pinot Noir in this small but exciting part of Australia.

In the Light Bodied Dry Red class 28 wines were selected in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Shiraz/Syrah was the most awarded variety, with a wide range of styles coming from a spread of warm and cooler climates from Australia and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.  A number of Grenache based blends from the Barossa and McLaren Vale showed the strength of this variety in these regions. Add to these an interesting collection of awarded wines made from Barbera, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Malbec, Rondinella/Corvina and a range of Cabernet Sauvignon based blends and there is plenty of interest for the experimental consumer.

The Medium Bodied Dry Red class was again a very successful category, with 38 wines being selected for the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold awards. This category has long been the domain of Australian wines and this year was no exception, taking 35 of the awards. The 2012 and 2010 vintages dominated reflecting the excellent vintages these were for red wines across most Australian regions. Shiraz again had a strong showing, with a fabulous diversity of styles from both the classic regions and the emerging regions of Australia as well as a very stylish example from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.  A strong range of Cabernet and Cabernet blends from a range of Australian regions also make a strong representation in the awards. Two Portuguese red wines from the 2012 vintage also make a welcome addition to the TOP 1OO list.

The Fuller Bodied Dry Red class features 41 wines, the highest number of awards in any one class in the Competition. A large number of high quality Shiraz’s, with South Australia featuring strongly in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Classic styles from the Barossa and McLaren Vale are joined by wines from Langhorne Creek, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Mt Benson and Margaret River in this strong showing of rich yet stylish wines. Cabernet Sauvignon also features strongly from famous South Australian regions, as well as a strong showing from Margaret River. Italy is well represented, with 4 rich wines from 4 separate regions in the South of Italy.  Portugal is represented by a Touriga Naçional. Australian versions of an Italian variety are also represented by 2 Montepulciano wines from the Adelaide Hills that are well worth consideration for something different.

Hence, in summary, I feel the consumer has a very interesting and diverse range of high quality wines to select from, from this year’s results in the different categories, providing many enjoyable options for a range of dining occasions.

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