This week I am one of the two overseas judges at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. It’s my first experience of an Australian wine show, and so far it has all been positive.
I admit I was a little apprehensive before I got here. My image of Australian wine shows was informed by what I’d read. I’d heard that they were dominated by old, senior winemakers dressed in labcoats, working their way through hundreds of wines at ferocious speed, dogmatically leading their panels – conform or be cast out. I saw myself getting into an awful lot of trouble.
I’m glad to report that the RMWS of 2012 is completely different. Under the enlightened leadership of David Bicknell, there are no lab coats, and no one behaves dogmatically. There’s a great team of some 40 tasters, including not only winemakers but also journalists and merchants. It’s really friendly, and the standard of judging is very high.
The Aussies are red hot on faults, but wines with personality and slight quirks are being given a fair crack. It’s hard work, but there’s no rushing. There’s plenty of time to taste, with breaks, and our palates are not being worked to the point that they begin to perform erratically.
The wines have been pretty good, with some real stand outs. Some classes have been particularly strong: the 2010 Shiraz flight I judged today had some brilliant wines in it. Australian wine style seem to be shifting away from over-ripeness and a reliance on oak, which is a good thing.
Aside from the judging, we have had two masterclasses. James Suckling (who, it turns out, is very friendly and good fun) gave one on Brunello, and I gave one on natural wine. And then there are the dinners. Last night’s theme was old Aussie wines (these were incredible), and tonight’s is old European wines. I’m not getting all that much sleep, but that’s what the plane journey home is for.