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Judges' Reflections 2015 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 eleventh year as Chairman. The smooth organization for the judging of 2000 wines by fourteen 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 event. The judging team this year consisted of some returning judges, as well as a good mix of new judges, consisting of 8 Australian judges, 4 New Zealanders, one American and one Englishman. Amongst this group there were four Masters of Wine (MW), two Master Sommeliers (MS), 6 winemakers, a wine journalist and a wine researcher/lecturer. Overall an excellent mix of both technical and style judges who all showed great dedication to the judging along with some good humoured banter, and I thank them for making the competition a pleasure to Chair.

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. A real diversity of wine styles produced from an ever increasing range of grape varieties have been awarded either TOP 1OO, Blue-Gold or Gold status. It is pleasing to see not just diversity between the classes, but also within the classes, providing the consumer with some really interesting options with which to experiment.

In the Sparkling Wines class a range of styles from Australia, New Zealand and France were selected. New Zealand and Australia shared the top sparkling accolades evenly this year, both with 4 wines in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories, being joined by 2 French Champagnes in the TOP 1OO category. The Australian sparklers consisted of two Sparkling Shiraz, as well as 2 Méthode Traditionelle wines from the cool areas of the Adelaide Hills and Tasmania.

Riesling dominated the Aromatics category this year, with 9 out of the 10 wines in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Four Australian and two New Zealand regions are represented showing the diversity of locations and climates from which this excellent variety can produce high quality wines.
Breaking the Riesling mould in the class was an excellent Gewürztraminer from Marlborough in the Blue-Gold Category.

The Semi Sweet Whites class was included again this year for the second time. Four wines achieved either TOP 1OO or Blue-Gold status, with 2 New Zealand and one Australian Riesling being joined by an interesting Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France.

The Sauvignon Blanc class was as usual dominated by the Marlborough region of New Zealand, a region that has become a world benchmark for this variety. Of the 23 wines that achieved TOP 1OO or Blue-Gold status, 21 were from Marlborough, being joined by two other Kiwi wines from Nelson and Hawkes Bay. Apart from the classic vibrant Marlborough styles, there was also some interesting style diversity, and I awarded the Chairman of Judges trophy to a very textured, complex, wild yeast, barrel fermented style that I would recommend to anyone who feels the Marlborough Sauvignons lacks diversity.

The Pinot Noir classes again produced a strong showing with 23 wines selected for the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. New Zealand dominated the results with 21 wines from six different regions, and surprisingly the Pinot that topped the category was from Hawkes Bay – a region more renowned for its Bordeaux varieties. Two fine Australian Pinots stopped a New Zealand total domination, one from Geelong and one from the Mornington Peninsula, both fine Australian Pinot regions.

The Lighter Bodied Whites class has produced an interesting and varied range of predominantly dry wines. Classic Australian Semillon, some with some aged complexity, as well as some Semillon/Sauv Blanc blend provided the backbone of the class. However there is some excellent diversity in awards in this class with 7 different grape varieties represented in the TOP 1OO & Blue-Gold categories, including for the first time an interesting Spanish Godello from Galicia. Add to this, wines as different as a Vermentino from the Riverland of South Australia, Pinot Gris from New Zealand & Verdelho from the Hunter Valley and the consumer has a fabulous range of wines from which to choose.

The Medium Bodied Dry White provided 17 wines from a wide range of Australian and New Zealand regions being selected in to the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Nine of these wines were Chardonnay’s, reflecting the popularity and high quality of the very elegant medium bodied styles of Chardonnay being produced in both countries. Three Pinot Gris from Marlborough unsurprisingly also made this level, given the excellent quality of this variety being produced in that region. Newer “alternative” varieties such as Arneis, Grüner Veltliner and Vermentino provide some interesting choices that are well worth checking out as excellent food friendly alternatives.

The Fuller Bodied Dry White Class is the domain of Chardonnay, with 8 of the 12 places in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold lists being awarded to Chardonnay. Australia dominated this group of Chardonnays again this year, with only one NZ Chardonnay stopping a clean sweep of the Chardonnay awards in this class by Australia. Cooler areas of Australia such as Margaret River and the Adelaide Hills featured strongly in these Chardonnays, as well as wines from Great Southern and Bendigo regions. Also in the top awards in the class were 2 very classy Pinot Gris’s from New Zealand, a superb Viognier from the Eden Valley, and an interesting Greco/Fiano blend from the south of Italy.

In the Light Bodied Dry Red category 27 wines were selected in the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold categories. Shiraz/Syrah was the most awarded variety from a wide range of Australian regions as well as a number from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. Grenache based blends also featured from the Barossa and McLaren Vale as well as Spain. Add to these an interesting collection of awarded wines made from Tempranillo (Hawkes Bay, Spain & Australia), Touriga Nacional (Portugal), Fetească Neagră (Romania), Marzemino (Italy) and some Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots, and this is probably the most diverse class in the competition. Many interesting wines to try in this category, and a number that are very easy on the purse.

The Medium Bodied Dry Red category was again a very successful category, with 44 wines being selected for the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold awards being the most of any class in the show. This category has long been the domain of the Australian wines and this year was no exception with Australia gaining 36 of the awards. 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 4 stylish examples 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. A Californian Grenache blend features as a first for the competition, as well as an Italian from the Trentino region in North East Italy.

The Fuller Bodied Dry Red class had 24 wines awarded in the TOP 1OO & Blue-Gold categories. This class is rather unsurprisingly dominated by Australia, with only one Argentine Malbec stopping a clean sweep of the top two categories by Australia. A large number of high quality Shiraz and Cabernet wines predominate in the top awards with classic regions for these richer styles such as the Barossa and McLaren Vale being joined by wines from the Adelaide Hills, Margaret River, Heathcote, Langhorne Creek and Coonawarra in this strong showing of rich yet stylish wines. Having both an Argentine Malbec and a Langhorne Creek Malbec in the top awards makes for an interesting comparison for fans of this underrated variety.

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

Read Kym's Résumé

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