Nine of Australia’s top wine judges have gathered in Mudgee this week to determine the state’s top drops.
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Over 840 wines from all 14 NSW wine regions are being put to the test at the Mudgee Golf Club for the NSW Wine Awards.
This is the first time the region has been used as the judging venue after a regional program was introduced in Griffith in 2014, Orange in 2015 and the Hunter Valley last year.
New Chair of Judges David Brookes, from South Australia, is overseeing the competition – taking over from PJ Charteris.
“It’s nice to be looking at some NSW wines, even though I’ve done the Hunter Valley show and Royal Sydney show many times, it’s good to see the breadth of NSW’s wines and the quality is fantastic,” he said.
“Everyone has different levels of expertise and you put all that together in one room – and that’s a really strong judging panel – it’s a great breadth of experience.”
The awards are judged by nine wine experts from every state, and six judges ‘in-training’.
NSW Wine Industry Association president Tom Ward, from Orange NSW, said they have training wheels on.
“Three of the training judges are from Mudgee, we always do half from the region that we’re in – to allow the local winemakers to really get their toe in and that’s been really great,” he said.
Judging started on Tuesday and will continue until Thursday. On Wednesday morning, the judges sipped, swirled and spat their way through the chardonnay and shiraz entries.
“They seem to be on fire today and everyone is really into it,” Mr Brooks said.
“I’ve just done a little poke around on the tables and the Chardonnay is looking fantastic.”
“The early results are showing that we’re seeing good quality wines, we’ve seen some really outstanding wines, trophies have been awarded already and there will be more by Thursday afternoon,” Mr Ward said.
“Hopefully it’s raining gold medals,” Mr Brooks laughed.
But both were quick to explain the gold medals have to be earned.
“We’re not just here to punch them up and say everyone is a winner – and that’s why getting such a high profile panel and judges are really helping,” Mr Ward explained.
“The gold labels are a level of trust for the consumer.”
This year the scoring process has gone ‘hi-tech’ with an iPad based system from the Australian Wine Research Institute being used.
“That’s enabled us to use technology to really get the best out of the judging and be as efficient as we can,” Mr Ward said.
“We used to do all the scoring on paper, but this system correlates all the scores in one system – it gives the judges an oversight of where the judges are sitting.”
“Who’s being slightly stingy, where their hot spots are and what classes they judge the best,” Mr Brooks explained.
The visiting judges are not just staring into multiple glasses of wine, they will also experience the region’s local produce.
“It’s really important for us, that we’re not only judging wines from NSW, but we’re experiencing the region,” Mr Ward said.
On Tuesday night the group dined at The Cellar By Gilbert and on Wednesday they will experience Pipeclay Pumphouse.
Mr Brooks said the offering that Mudgee has now for visitors is amazing.
“They can take advantage of the wineries, the scenery, and the history – it’s really quite cool,” he said.
Preliminary results for the NSW Wine Awards will be released next week and the trophy winners will be announced at Pier One Sydney Harbour on October 27.
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