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Archive for the ‘Judging WIne’ Category

At Taylors, we take a lot of simple joy from the art of winemaking. To see family, employees and the community flourishing alongside our business here in the Clare Valley is incredibly rewarding for us. Yet we have to say, it’s also a thrill to receive recognition for the hard work that we put into each bottle and every vintage. So in today’s post, we’re excited to share a little about some of the highly competitive wine shows that we’ve taken part in this year, and take you through some of the awards that we’ve received. From both domestic and international wine competitions, these medals, commendations and trophies represent hours upon hours of hard work, innovation and persistence. They also tell us that our primary mission of presenting premium quality wines to the public is being recognised.

Crossing continents

With our increasingly connected global village, it is clear that in order to effectively share our winemaking dream, we have to get our wines out onto the world stage. In 2014, we have proudly taken our Australian red and white wines to shows in the USA, France, China, South Africa, Spain, New Zealand, Canada and Japan – to name just a few! And on the domestic front, we take seriously the feedback from local Australian competitions, where our Clare Valley wines have been judged against those from a suite of other Australian winemaking talent.

Ring in the New Year

January 2014 saw a great start to the year for us over in the States. The Winemakers’ Challenge International Wine Competition was held in San Diego, hosted by the renowned wine journalist Robert Whitley. There, our 2012 Estate Shiraz promptly garnered Platinum, as did the 2013 Promised Land Riesling. Considering that Whitley’s online publication Wine Review attracts one million visitors a year, we knew that we were already kicking goals for 2014 – in front of a worldwide audience. Then over to Europe, where the 2010 St Andrews Shiraz plus the Cabernet Sauvignon from that same vintage took out the Great Gold in Spain’s Catavinum World Wine and Spirit Competition. We then swung back home to the Sydney Royal Wine Show, where our 2013 St Andrews Riesling and the 2012 Estate Pinot Gris did us proud, both scooping Gold from a strong domestic pool.

best-riesling-award

Taking it to the world

And so the year began to gain momentum, with competitions from France to China becoming opportunities for us to showcase our passion for winemaking. In the case of China, it became clear that this growing and discerning market of wine lovers was attuned to our dedication. For example, at the China Wine and Spirits Awards, our 2010 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet not only took out a Double Gold for value – but also the Trophy for Australian Wine of the Year. These CWSA awards are among the largest and most prestigious in China. From our humble winery in Auburn to this kind of world recognition, well it can make you pause for a moment to catch your breath! And the whirlwind of awards overseas didn’t pause in Asia – the highly competitive Michelangelo International Wine Awards in South Africa also bestowed Gold upon our beloved 2012 St Andrews Shiraz. It’s a gracious nod from one antipodean winemaking country to another – and we’re delighted to accept.

A European flavour

You’ll probably understand that we get a little nervous about entering our wines in European shows – particularly in traditional wine growing regions. So as 2014 soared along and we headed back to Europe, we were thrilled to see our wines receive accolades from some of the most prestigious wine competitions. A notable highlight was being awarded not one but seven Gold in the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge! This remarkable event is the largest officially recognised wine show in the world, so we were understandably proud of how our premium Australian offerings fared. Heading north, our 2012 Cab Savs from the Jaraman and Estate ranges, plus the 2013 St Andrews Chardonnay, all claimed Gold in Belgium. The Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is one of the biggest European wine competitions, with the jury being selected exclusively from within the wine profession. And then back down south from there in Switzerland, both the Taylors Estate 2013 Pinot Noir and the Taylors Estate Pinot Gris 2013 were awarded Gold at the prestigious Mondial des Pinots competition. Even France joined in the excitement, with the Vinalies Internationales Paris seeing our 2012 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon stride away with a coveted Gold medal. Mon Dieu!

American dreams

Part of the New World collection of winemakers just like Australia, both the USA and Canada take winemaking very seriously. So when it comes to international competitions, we always know that we’re facing some strong contenders from across the Pacific. But that friendly rivalry didn’t seem to break our stride throughout 2014. The Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition saw us not only take home four Gold, but also Best in Class for the 2013 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet. One of the most prestigious of the USA’s wine competitions, the LA event has been running for more than 75 years. More Gold then came via both the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the New World Wine Awards. And the American Wine Society bestowed the coveted Double Gold upon our 2012 St Andrews Shiraz. Particularly exciting for us, the San Diego International Wine Competition brought a well-earned Platinum medal for the 2013 Taylors Estate Shiraz. Now, heading over to the East Coast, the World Value Wine Challenge in Boston paid homage to our key convergence of quality and value for consumers: there, we were delighted to receive Gold and Best Buy for a suite of our 2013 vintage wines, confirming our commitment to making premium wines that are accessible to all.

And we have to say that we were especially privileged to be named Clare Valley Winery of The Year at the New York International Wine Competition. Our beautiful valley and winery, out there in full view of the world. Lovely stuff.

No place like home

Back home in Australia, we headed on over to the Rutherglen Wine Show. Now, it might seem to some like just a small country event – but don’t let appearances fool you. Those in the know understand that the Rutherglen Wine Show has a 125-year heritage, with judging that is well known for its intense rigour. Five panels of three judges each provide a score, followed by further judging by an independent associate, whose score is then combined with the others to establish an overall mark. It’s great to return to Australia after a whirlwind year and know that while international acclaim is terrific, the esteem of locals is also greatly appreciated. So when a local show like Rutherglen acknowledges our 2013 Eighty Acres Shiraz Viognier with a Gold medal – it makes the year’s overall achievements that much sweeter. Other local acknowledgement came at the prestigious Melbourne International Wine Competition, where the 2012 St Andrews Shiraz also brought home the Gold for Taylors. And still within the Victorian capital, the 2014 St Andrews Riesling earned not just Gold at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show – but also the Trophy for Best Riesling.

When the industry awards flow in as recognition of our ongoing labours at Taylors, it certainly puts a spring in our step! But it’s no secret that our passion for delivering exceptional wine would go on regardless of any particular acclaim. Sometimes, the greatest reward is just knowing that lovers of good wine are simply being treated to the fruits of our hard work and never-ending innovation.

clinton-clare-valley-award

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So you have a wine tasting looming on your social horizon. And you can picture it now – sparkling glasses on linen-covered tables, with people who seem to know a heck of a lot about what they’re doing. Odd swirling actions, strange sniffing, talk of bouquets, spitting – really, you could well ask what it’s all about!

But fear not, you’re certainly not alone! And by adopting a few basic strategies, not only will you blend in like a professional at your next cellar door tasting with friends, we think that you might also come to savour and appreciate different wines just that little bit more.

Keeping it simple

Taste Wine Like a ProfessionalSee…sniff …savour. These three little words are the simplest thumbnail sketch available on how to judge wine. Now, right away some pro wine tasters are pointing out that each of these stages could easily be broken into three or four more sub-stages. And we agree. But because we’re covering the basics here for you, how about we keep it simple? At the end of the day, a wine tasting is basically your chance to assess multiple aspects of ‘see, smell and savour’, in order to form your own opinion on the wine’s overall quality. Don’t let it be a stressful chore, because there are no definite right or wrong answers in wine tasting. For wasn’t 19thcentury artist Gellett Burgess right when he said: “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like?” The same might be said of wine too. Of course, when it comes to wine tasting, practice also makes perfect! Here’s a breakdown of the three stages.

 See here

So, a small amount of your first wine has been decanted into quality glassware, preferably tulip-shaped (it provides a better surface area). Visually taking in your wine can give you valuable initial hints as to potential varietal features and likely age. In general, whites will display their youth with paler hues, moving to denser yellows with age. Conversely, young reds can first appear in rich maroons and dark purples, while brick red and light ochres tend to signify a more advanced vintage. Take in the clarity or opacity, and examine for any problematic inclusions, such as cork or sediment. Give the wine a bit of a swirl to double check for these, plus to watch how it sits in the glass. If there are thick rivulets (known as legs) hanging down the glass, this shows a certain viscosity or thickness. Substantial legs can indicate high alcohol content and/or sweetness.

A thoughtful sniff

Perhaps the part of wine tasting that causes the most eye rolling among amateurs is the time spent by pro wine tasters smelling the beverage. Well, there are actually a few great reasons why aroma testing is crucial. Back to biology class… did you know the human sense of smell is 1,000 times more acute than taste?

And when we think of the mouth and olfactory connection in humans, these two senses often helpfully intermingle and send joint messages to the brain. Suffice to say – the nose is a champion tool in the assessment of any wine.

First, give the glass another gentle swirl to add a little oxygen and to release more aromatic molecules. Take a cursory first sniff and note your initial reaction. Now place your nose gently into the top of the glass and inhale more deeply, sensing how the aroma descends down to your mouth. This should begin to give you a greater appreciation of the aromatic characteristics that will potentially arise from this wine: hints of varietal make-up, vinification methods, structure and regional character can begin to take form. You might also detect aspects of acidity, sweetness and tannins at this olfactory stage. The mouth is now also becoming nicely prepared for the next step – taste.

And so to savour

Slowly take a mouthful and let it flow gradually across your tongue and throughout your mouth. This allows you assess the structure and texture of the wine, as well as to confirm or challenge earlier olfactory clues your nose picked up. In drinking and savouring, you can now let yourself experience the wine’s taste and overall mouth feel, again looking for indications of the wine’s grape variety, place of origin and age.

Older or oaked wines might present a more creamy or dense structure, while younger wines tend to be lighter or crisper. But it’s not just about feel. Your mouth and nose are working in unison to continually understand the wine’s nuanced flavours. Speaking very generally, flavours of fruit, nuts, plants, wood, baked items, minerals and spices could all arise throughout this phase. And these are just a few examples! In all, a careful examination of the balance of acidity, tannins, sweetness, heat and flavour in accord with the particular variety in question will be helpful in any taste assessment.

And then the last part of tasting is to have a think about how the wine finishes up. Is there a pleasant or unpleasant aftertaste? Does the aroma linger into a delicious finale, or do you have metallic barbs assaulting your palate?

Overall experience

So now someone turns to you and asks: “well, how was that – a good wine?” They’re pretty much alluding to your overall tasting experience, not just the technical aspects of it. Have a quick think about what you sensed in the broad see, sniff and savour categories. The cloudy Shiraz with light sediment (see) might be saved by delicious spiced mulberry aromas (sniff), and well-balanced tannins (savour) for example. Or the crisp pastel lemon Chablis (see) might be cleverly followed by faint lemongrass aromatics (sniff), tidied by a deliciously light mouth feel and nectarine notes (savour).

And so on. Your overall gut feel about this wine is important, and should inform your judgement. Use these basic categories to refine the way your express your opinion.

Follow the pros

So how do wine judges work out how to score a particular wine? Well, there are a number of wine scoring systems around the world, using total scores of anywhere between five and 100 marks. Generally, the largest portion of the scoring will go to what we’ve called the savour aspect, with remaining marks spread between the other individual elements. There is also an overall mark.

Red Wine Tasting
While it’s useful to be aware of how the professionals do it, don’t get too hung up on trying to be exact. If you give each wine the respect it deserves by providing a little thoughtful attention to each part of the tasting experience, you’ll be surprised at the way your whole approach to wine is enhanced. In so many ways, wine will start to ‘make sense’ more than before.

A tasting can also be great to get inside the head of your winemaker a little. Back to those earlier thoughts on art, research shows that a gallery-goer’s experience is enhanced if they know just a little about the artist’s life, times and techniques. We
think the same just might apply to winemaking. In understanding a little of our art, you might just find that there’s a pretty complex world going on in each bottle. Know some more about what we were thinking when we made the wine, plus where we made it – and your wine just might take on a new dimension.

Remember to be yourself

This is one of the most important things to remember at a tasting. If other tasters notice viscous legs on the glass and you don’t, just say it. If the word around the room is ‘grassy’ for this Chardonnay, but you get something else, then speak up. No two people are the same, and your nose’s perception might well have picked up the wine’s more subtle aromatics and associated terroir.

Finally, why not just have a little fun before that tasting looms? Perhaps run our Taylors Estate Merlot through its paces with a little wine assessment of your own? As always, we’d love to hear from you about this or any other tasting adventures that you might take, so drop us a line any time. Remember, there are no rights or wrongs – it’s about opening up new horizons and finding more to love!

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