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JUDGING BRIEF FOR 2017 SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION’S JURY                                                                                                         

Judging Conducted 9th – 14th October 2016

Kym Milne MW (SA) International Wine Consultant


Megan Brodtmann MW (VIC) Winemaker, International Wine Consultant
Dr Ken Dobler(NSW) Medical Practitioner, Senior Wine Judge
Stuart Halliday (NSW) GM and Chief Sommelier, Tetsuya's Restaurant
Andrea Pritzker (NSW)
Master of Wine, QANTAS Epicure Program
Dr Sue Baston (SA)
Wine educator, University of Adelaide
Mark Robertson (SA)
Chief Winemaker, Treasury Wine Estates

Stephen Wong MW (NZ) Master of Wine
Brent Marris (NZ) Winemaker/Proprietor, Marisco Vineyards
Warren Gibson (NZ) Chief Winemaker, Trinity Hill

Jo Burzynska(NZ) Viva Wine Editor, WSET Certified Educator
Eugene Mlynczyk (Canada)
Master of Wine

The Sydney International Wine Competition's primary objective is to help diners choose pleasing wines to complement the dishes of their dining table. The Competition Panel's collective recommendations are communicated mainly through the Competition's www.top100wines.com website and via the Competition's Award bottle medallions which bear the Competition's official logo and other trademarks.

We seek to single out and reward wines that are complementary to food. In so doing, we aim to expand consumers' choice, to introduce consumers to wines and wine styles they may not otherwise have considered, and by extending their options, to increase their dining pleasure.

For the 2017 Competition, the "cap" of 2,000 entries maximum is again to be applied. The entries are mainly from Australasia, but also from a number of other wine producing countries. Initially, we divide these entries into small, essentially varietal categories of twenty-four to forty-two wines which will then be assigned in a balanced way to the six First Phase Panels.

Next, the First Phase wines you advance into the finals will be divided into thirteen "Style Categories". Some will sort themselves into specific categories; eg the Rosés; but the majority of the wines will be sorted by the Chief Judge and his selected Panel, purely on perceived relative palate weight, into food friendly Lighter, Medium and Fuller bodied Dry White and Dry Red style categories.

In the Final Phase judging, you will be judging the wines in each of these style categories alongside appropriate food complexing the wine's palate impression.
Wine presents in many legitimate styles, some possibly less familiar to a given judge than others. All of the wines that advance to the Final Phase judging and which have been divided into their Style Categories, have application in the dining experience. All the wines you will be judging in this Finals Phase, potentially, have an international market. When assessing a wine, it is essential that you think beyond the parameters of just your own personal tastes and/or your own local market.

Principally, treat each wine on its merits as a complement to the dish with which it is presented and record your wine/food comments accordingly; but also feel free to comment on the wine as a complement to some other food dish to which you feel it might be particularly well suited.

The judging of the Competition will be in two phases, a first, or preliminary phase, and a second, or finals phase, with an intermediate, or classification phase, which doesn't involve actual merit judging, to sort the final phase wines into Style Categories (see below).

First Phase
For the first phase, the Jury will be divided into six panels of two judges, at least one of whom will have had previous SIWC judging experience. Judging will be carried out seated, each judge with his/her own 1500mm x 750 mm tasting table. The wine samples for each panel will be placed by the judging-room stewards onto each judge's large, numbered tasting mat. This preliminary phase serves to advance a nominated percentage (usually 20 percent) of the panellists’ best regarded wines into the finals.

To spread the stewards work as evenly as possible, the number of wines presented to each panel will vary to allow for staggered finishing/starting times. However, each day, the total number of wines to be judged will be divided as equally as possible between the six panels.

The nominated variety (or blend) will be offered on each judge's Tasting Notes Sheet, but that will be the only information offered. You will not know the origin of the fruit. Hot valley floor, cool mountain slopes. Just judge each entry as it present on the day, irrespective of whether it is nine months or nine years old. This Competition does not judge for typicity of terroir. "Is it balanced, harmonious and palate friendly?" These are the judging criteria for the First Phase of the Competition. "Will it complement food of a certain palate weight?" That is a question you will be asked to address in the Finals Phase judging – with food.

In the First Phase judging, independently, each judge will mark each wine using his/her preferred system of marking. Conferencing is discouraged. You are the expert. We want your own personal opinion, not a Panel opinion. In the first phase judging, you will not be required to justify your selections. For each bracket of wines, the Panel will be advised of the percentage to be advanced to the next phase, for example, 20%. Each panel member will record the Class, bracket and wine-mat numbers of the given percentage of the bracket as his/her preferred wines for advancement into the finals via his/her individual Preference Report.

For example, if there are thirty five wines in the bracket and the percentage nominated for advancement is 20%, each judge will nominate his/her seven preferred wines. No debate nor discussion, nor written comments nor justifications are required. Even if you don't feel it is a particularly strong bracket, we still require you to select the required percentage of wines from the bracket.

The Chief Judge may be approached and/or will circulate amongst the panels, answering procedural questions, offering guidance as required, and will play an important role as Panel Leader for each of the six First Phase panels when the two panel judges' preferred wine choice percentages are not in synch.

Each First Phase panel judge will hand his/her Preference Report to a judging-room steward who will pass the Panel's two Preference Reports, along with any Preference Report the Competition Convener may wish to submit, to the chief wine-pouring steward. (Importantly, without further reference to the judge, this is also the signal for the judging-room stewards that they may clear that judge's table and reset his/her tasting mat with the panel's next bracket of wines.)

Wines advanced in common will automatically become Finalists. The chief wine-pouring steward will re-number the "not selected in common" wines, from 1 upwards.
Fresh samples of the "not selected in common" wine preferences will be placed by the judging-room stewards onto numbered squares on the Chief Judge's tasting mat. The Panel Judges will not attend nor engage the Chief Judge in conference nor debate. Solely, the Chief Judge will decide which of the "not selected in common" wines will be advanced into the Finals to complete the percentage of wines required from the bracket.

In this Competition, there are no awards made from the First Phase judging. For any entry, the only route to progress into the Finals "with food" Judging Phase is via the preferences of the two member First Phase panel, or via the Chief Judge, who will personally assess the other wines which were not selected unanimously.

Intermediate Phase - Style Classification Phase
Next follows the intermediate, the style classification phase of the Competition, where most of the table wines finalists will be sorted into food friendly Style Categories - by palate weight – by the Chief Judge and his nominated panel of assistant judges.

Varietal classes often produce wines of widely varying palate weights. Shiraz, for example, can translate to anything from a pink Rosé to a 16% v/v alcohol blockbuster. It is this "palate weight" sorting process which allows us to judge the finalists alongside appropriate food.

So far as we are aware, there is no scientific method to accurately predict a wine's mouth-feel, its palate weight; this is a perceptual thing. Sparkling, Aromatic, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Pinot Noir wines, Dessert and Fortified wine finalists, remain in their own special categories. Finalists in each of these categories, wherever possible, will be sequenced in some, appropriate, logical order. For example, Dessert wine finalists are sequenced by their increasing grams per litre of sweetness.

Apart from these specialised Categories, for all other finalists, for anonymity of the wines, the warehouse stewards will pick new samples of these finalists, remove closures and capsules, wrap them tightly in foil or paper bags and tape them, place all the white wine finalists together in a group at one end of nine meters of continuous table and, similarly, all the red wine finalists at the other end. Chief Judge (and his selected Panel of assistant judges), unaware of country of origin, price, grape variety or vintage, now taste and retaste these wines as often as required, to array these masked, blind finalists, into a line of perceived palate weight, from lightest bodied to fullest bodied. The Chief Judge will decide where the Lighter Bodied finalists finish, the Medium Bodied finalists commence and finish, and so on.

Sauvignon Blancs & Pinot Noirs
Both these varieties are now being judged separately, regardless of palate weight. Over a number of years, it became apparent that these two varietals showed better when judged alongside food dishes particularly suited to their typical palate profiles.

Finals Phase Judging
Identifying the Award Winners, Category & Special Trophy Winners.

In the second/finals phase judging, the finalists have been grouped together into Style Categories, allowing for easier comparative assessments. It is the best of these "wines that currently go well with appropriate food" that the Competition seeks to single out and reward.

For the Finals judging with food, the Jury will be divided into two panels of six (possibly seven) judges, with an appropriate distribution of national representation between the two Panels. Over the course of the Finals judging days, the finalists, within their new "style" groupings, in relatively small brackets, will be presented in an appropriate sequence – progressively – Lighter Bodied before Medium and Fuller Bodied etc - to be judged again by the two Finals Panels for assessment and marking when judged alongside a food course which wines of their particular palate weight and style could reasonably be expected to accompany/complement.

In practice, the Panellists first judge the particular Style Category, for its technical qualities, just as wine. At a signal from the Panel Leader, the food course will be presented, and Panel members will judge and mark the wines again, in this case, after ingesting a small portion of the food before retasting.

In the Finals Phase Judging, a prescribed, uniform marking system will be used by all Panellists. All wines will be marked on a 1-10 scale with Judges required to array their preferences within that range of 1-10 scores. Judges' scores will be computerized and their aggregates will determine the Trophy and other Award winners.

Food will change palate chemistry and judges often discover, when they compare their marks for wines they judged first, technically, just as a beverage, and then again, with food, for better or worse, the same wine may be seen in a new light after tasting with the food. This second phase judging is much closer to the environment in which consumers are likely to encounter these wines. That is the electorate to which the Competition's results and recommendations are aimed.

We select the twenty-four trophy and 300 award winners - Championship trophy winner, Reserve Champion, Best White Wine & Red Wine of Competition etc - in the following manner.
The two Finals Panels, each of six (or seven) judges, are allocated a balanced half of the several Style Categories, to be judged with food. Independently, each Judge marks and writes his/her impressions of each wine when judged with food on his/her score sheets. Upon completion of his/her assessment of the Category, each judge retires to a quiet location with his/her score sheets to tape record his/her marks and comments on each wine into their (supplied) individual hand-held tape recorder. Comments ideally comprise fifty to sixty words on each wine and its food compatibility.

Unless otherwise advised, tasting room stewards will take the judge leaving his/her tasting table as the signal to clear and clean that table of tasting glasses, spittoons etc. If leaving the table for any other reason, intending to continue, advise the Steward Captain not to remove your samples. Upon dictating their comments, judges place their score sheets, with their name clearly indicated, in the file tray for same, on the bench adjacent to the internal double doors.

After cross-checking dictated comments and score sheet scores, photocopies of your score sheets will be returned to you by post for your own records. (Please write clearly legible notes and scores. Photocopies of feint, pencilled notes, can sometimes be unreadable.)

Typically, 20% plus of the Competition's capped 2,000 entries with be assessed with food in the Finals Phase judging. That's about 400 plus Finalists. (Because of "equal points" usually slightly more than 400).

The Competition's computers will aggregate and combine the marks of the two Finals Panels Judges. Three quarters of the Finalists ie. 15 percent of the total entry, that means ±300 wines, will win Awards. The highest pointed two quarters within each Style Category will achieve Blue-Gold Awards. This will translate to ±200 wines.

From within this group of Blue-Gold Award winners, about ±100 wines, approximately the top quarter of the finalists in each Category will be nominated as the TOP 1OO Award Winning Wines of the Competition.

And finally, of the remaining ±200 Finalists, the top half in the 13 Style Categories will receive Highly Commended Awards.

Only ±15% of the total entry will receive any recognition, and that makes the Sydney International Wine Competition probably the toughest marking Competition of all the major internationals. It also helps to explain why consumers have come to trust and respect this Competition's Awards, which in turn translates into bottle sales, according to a volume of empirical evidence.

Judges' comments (edited) on the Award winning wines will be published on the Competition's popular website www.top100wines.com. In commenting, judges often express diverse opinions about the same wine. To realise that even amongst experienced wine professionals there is no enshrined, divine, single opinion about a given wine is positive encouragement for less experienced tasters to pursue their personal organoleptic development, helping to demystify wine's perceived mystique. There will usually be a divergence of opinion between judges, but the Award winning wines are always chosen based on the aggregate scores of the Panellists.


As the time interval between wine purchase and the snap or pop of the closure continues to diminish, each year, this list of Award winning wines of the Sydney International Wine Competition provides consumers with a superb "cellar" from which to choose wines to enhance their dining experiences - from the simplest pasta dishes - to the most important gastronomic occasions. Our Judges comments and opinions about these wines will help consumers make better informed wine choices.

In the process, by keeping the brackets small, with frequent recreational breaks to help reduce fatigue, the Competition aims to make your Sydney International Wine Competition judging experience both enjoyable, informative, memorable.

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