Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Putting wine back where it belongs – on the table with food

Have you ever attended a judging session for a major wine show? Literally hundreds of glasses stretching endlessly down a long trestle table with wine judges sniffing and sipping their way through an ocean of wines.

I have been involved with smaller wine judging events for the Mercure Grands Vins wine selection, and even 120 wines in an afternoon was taxing. There is a point where the palate simply can’t take or appreciate much more, though good wine judges do extraordinarily well to maintain their taste buds during these marathon sessions.

But what it has done to wine judging is encourage wineries to submit “big” wines in an effort to attract the attention of understandably-jaded judges. This created the big chardonnays and shiraz wines of the past that were offering massive oak and alcohol levels in excess of 15%, which – not surprisingly – consumers began to eschew after the novelty wore off. Chardonnay, to this day, is still trying to recover from that massive over-kill, which might have led to many awards, and might have attracted attention in the USA, but in the end tainted a very noble grape variety.

Today, I look very carefully at the medals festooned around wine bottles. The only one that really has any impact with me is the Sydney International Wine Competition TOP 100 medal (http://www.top100wines.com/main/default.asp) because I know the wine has been judged with food.

It seems so obvious, but because of the pace and traditional style of wine judging, that rarely happens. What the Sydney International Wine Competition does is to judge the wines firstly by themselves, then with food – and, not surprisingly, many wines that shine on their own, do not perform as well with food that should, technically, be ideal for that variety.

The SIWC looks for food-friendly wines from Australia, New Zealand and many other countries around the world. It is into its 32nd year, which is an achievement in its own right, and entries for the 2014 Show are about to close, so wineries who think they have wines that are ideal for complementing food should look to enter the competition.

The competition’s entry is capped to 2000 wines, with the limit expected to be reached within the next month. Judging of the wines will take place in October, with all Award winners, including the prestigious TOP 1OO wine selection and the 26 trophy winners, announced at a glittering event at the Sydney Shangri-La hotel in March, 2014.

Already, over 1400 wines have been submitted, a record response for the competition at such an early stage. While predominantly from Australia and New Zealand, wines have also been submitted from South America, Europe and America.
www.top100wines.comConvener of the Sydney International Wine Competition, Warren Mason, said the show is looking for wines of balance and harmony that are food friendly alongside specific food styles.

“Each year we have new wineries entering the Competition who understand that, ultimately, wine is designed to complement food,” he said.“Because of the nature of traditional wine shows they may have been reluctant to enter such shows, but once they understand the principles of the Sydney International Wine Competition, they appreciate that their wines will have the opportunity to show their true qualities,” said Mr Mason.

"A wine that is successful in traditional wine shows might taste quite different when judged with food, and the point of the Sydney International Wine Competition is to help consumers select wine more confidently and more appropriate to every day dining.

“Wines that make the cut in the SIWC are treble tasted –initially on their own, but then with appropriate food. This way we are able to taste a wine the way most consumers will, and quite often wines that stand out initially don’t perform quite as well with food and vice versa. Held over five days, it is an exhaustive process, but it attracts an esteemed panel of local and international judges who endorse the approach.”

Chairman of Judges, Kym Mylne, highlighted the relevance of the approach when unveiling the 2013 award winners: “Instead of being seduced by the power and richness of the bigger wines, as sometimes can happen when wines are judged in purely varietal classes, many of the high-quality lighter-bodied wines can compete on their own terms when supporting the more subtle dishes and, indeed, show themselves in many cases to be superior food wines with such dishes.

“And, surely, compatibility with food is really at the very heart of enjoying wine? We must be sure that these wines are adequately represented.”

Kym Mylne will again be Chairman of Judges of an outstanding international panel comprising judges from Australia, New Zealand, The UK, USA and Taiwan.

Wineries seeking to enter can find Entry Forms along with full details of the competition and its background at: www.top100wines.com