Wine shows are frequently “all about the numbers”: exhibits received, classes judged, points awarded, medals given. And despite the fact that this oversimplifies things, this year is no exception!
However, before the numbers: a word about words. Even we judges who are accustomed to reducing a complex, wonderful beverage to a single numerical score are generally more comfortable describing wines in greater detail than ‘85’ or ‘95’. I encourage exhibitors to have a look at the comments that we generate when judging. While I am sure that you will not always agree with our descriptions, and on occasions be confused, amused or even outraged by our abbreviations and ‘notes to self’ re style and quality, there are snippets of insight there that might help you understand how we arrived at that solitary number.
Given the year that 2020 is, it is unsurprising that the total number of entries was down on 2019: a total of just over 900 wines were tasted. But the quality was just as good, with 17 of 19 trophies awarded.
The largest class was—as always—the unchallenged hero of our wine community: Shiraz, with 186 wines. Chardonnay came in second at 99, followed by Cabernet at 85. Of course, the red classes include mature wines from several ‘back’ vintages, unlike the ‘pretty whites’ which generally feature wines from only one or two seasons.
The hard-working but always good-humoured team never judged more than 65 wines in a flight, and as always we were careful to taste and retaste those wines which showed merit based on first impressions. Again, Pinot Noir won the day when the various trophy winners came head-to-head on the last afternoon, and we were almost unanimous in our appreciation for the complexity, perfume, length and structure of the ’17 Bream Creek Reserve. It was seriously challenged by the beautiful, rich, unctuous Gralyn Estate Artisan Rare Muscat, the youth and vivacity of the ’20 Gomersal Wines Premium Riesling, and the just-emerging complexity of the ‘14 Two Rivers Stones Throw Museum Release Semillon… amongst others… I hope that you understand the difficulty in choosing just one wine from a suite of deserving winners!
Wearing my hat of proud Adelaide Hills local, given the regional trauma arising from the December bushfires I was delighted to see two regional trophy winners from the 2020 vintage: Pike & Joyce’s Sauvignon Blanc and Hahndorf Hill’s rosé. These make the point very neatly that the damage from smoke and fire was localised, and we should never write off the wines from any region in any vintage, despite adversity: fire, flood, frost or any other challenge of nature.
For the record, we awarded medals to an average 71% of all of the entries: a significant number. In analysing the scores after the event it is apparent that those exhibitors receiving a Gold medal can be very pleased: only 5% of entries won the top medal. Silver medals went to a further 20%. Each of these wines was considered for Gold, and exhibitors can be assured that hearty and sometimes robust discussion preceded the final decision. In many classes well over 80% of the wines won a medal: notably Sparkling, Riesling, Semillon and Fortified. You will note that several of these are definitely not the “in crowd” of varieties or styles! A note to consumers: the fringes of growing and making and list of current “trendies” often produce gems, but real consistency and stellar quality often accompanies mature vineyards in the hands of makers who understand their fruit and region.
Thanks to the team who are the backbone of the show: stewards, software gurus, box carriers and unpackers, and organisational supremos. I am also very grateful to the team of judges: from MWs to makers, marketers to growers, we were a diverse but unified bunch. And notwithstanding the regrettable absence of our Spiritual Leader Huon, I hope we ‘got it right’!
Peter Leske | Australia