Medals at wine shows mean much to wine makers. But the process of wine judging is not well known to most consumers. I attended the recent judging at the Geelong wine show to get a better sense of how wines win medals.
A panel of three main judges and three trainees, known as associates, assess wines at most shows. Almost 200 wines were assessed at the Geelong wine show, which lasted for two days. Judges assure me the process is exhausting because of the level of concentration involved.
It would be impossible to report on the entire process because 85 wines received medals. The high proportion of medals to entries suggested the high calibre of wines on show. Only 14 gold medals were awarded and 21 silver medals.
Pinot noir wines represented the largest single group: 35 in total. Of these wines, nine received bronze medals, four won silver and four gold. The gold medals are reviewed in this column, and the wines are available from the respective vineyards, where you will also find prices.
Reviews are listed in alphabetic order of the vineyard name. The 2008 Clyde Park pinot was dark and brooding with an intense forest floor nose reminiscent of wild thyme on a hot summer’s day. The taste was savoury and slightly sour.
The 2009 Hat Rock pinot noir was dark cherry in colour with a funky nose with aromas of coffee. The taste was restrained at first, refusing initially to offer its delicate embrace, though the sweet flavours of plum lingered in the mouth. In all it was an intriguing wine – my favourite of the pinot noirs.
The 2008 Mount Moriac pinot noir smelled of roasted coffee beans and it also was reluctant to open at first, possibly because of the cold room in which the tasting took place. A silky tannic structure suggested the wine would best be cellared for four to five years, especially because of the wine’s full length.
The 2009 Provenance pinot noir had the lightest colour, suggesting different grape clones compared with the darker colours of the other three gold medal winners. It had a light mouth-feel, plus aromas of thyme and cherries. Another wine to cellar for three to four years to get the best from it.
Appreciation of wine is inevitably a subjective process. Panels are used to judge wines to eliminate high levels of subjectivity, although it is probably impossible to remove personal biases entirely. Wine lovers should try to understand the judging process to improve their understanding of the stickers placed on bottles indicating success at wine shows.
* “What makes some wines winners?” in China Daily, 18 December 2010, 12.