Chairman's Report


2017 Chairman's Report

2017 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge Chairman’s Report

This is second year that I have delivered my final chairman’s report for the Great Shiraz Challenge.

Now I realise that statement justifies some sort of explanation to the careful reader!

Sue Bell, Bellwether Wines, was to take over the role as Chair of the show from this year however on the eve of the event she was struck down by the terrible A strain flu and there was a need for a last- minute replacement. Fortunately, I was able to re arrange my schedule and on Monday morning a week or so ago, there I was meeting the judges and preparing for the 2017 event.

The judging was done in the Montage room at Mitchelton winery which is a great venue for the event and as I understand it, also logistically excellent for the stewards as well.

And that reminds me that we need to give a very special vote of thanks to our Chief Steward, Vivian Beaumont, who once again stepped up to the plate and lined up table after table of great Shiraz wines for us to tackle every morning, well done Vivian!

This year we added a new face to the judging panel, Reid Bosward from the Barossa Valley. His winemaking career spans over 25 years and 30 harvests, a graduate of Roseworthy winemaking college he spent his early career in the Hunter Valley at Tyrrells. He has worked multiple vintages around the world for the Lurton family in Bordeaux as well as vintages in Minervois, Moldova, South Africa and Spain.

In 2000 he was able to purchase the Kaesler estate with his business partners and secure some outstanding old vine vineyards dating back to 1893 and 1899, some of the largest holdings of eighteenth century plantings in the world. He has been chief winemaker since 2000 and has overseen the development of Kaesler in the Barossa and its portfolio of single vineyard old vine estate labels including the award winning Old Bastard Shiraz and The Bogan Shiraz. In 2014 Reid was made a Baron of The Barossa for his outstanding contribution to the region.

My fellow judges have all been involved in the event over the last few years:

Jeni Port – Journalist extraordinaire, Shiraz lover, erudite and careful to make sure she does not miss anything and a great contributor to team Shiraz

Darren Rathbone – Winemaker/proprietor of the Rathbone Wine Group which includes the famous Mt Langi Ghiran brand which gives him a very special connection to the variety.

Paul Carpenter from Tintara in Mclaren Vale, part of the Constellation Group and a very serious producer of Shiraz from McLaren vale.

Jen Pfeiffer – Winemaker at the famous Rutherglen family winery with a sharp palate and a plethora of beanies for keeping her warm as well as a great connection with northeast Victorian Shiraz.

Following on from their introduction in 2016, the awards included best of individual states: SA, Vic, WA, NSW, ACT and the best of the rest from Tasmania and Queensland.

As a group of judges, our task is to sort and determine, the highest quality wines of each style of Shiraz made in Australia from the big ripe and fuller styles from South Australia, the leaner however aromatic and spicy examples from the cooler climates of Victoria, NSW and even Tasmania and everything in between.

The wines were collated into groups by vintage and region however only the vintage was known to the judges which breaks the process into discreet parcels. Whilst it sounds like fun, which in part it is, the concentration required is significant – there is the possibility with each wine you taste that this might be the best wine of show – pressure is on! One minute you maybe tasting six or eight cooler climate 2016 wines which could be followed by a larger bracket from say central Victoria, the importance of concentration is significant!

We attempted to award great wines regardless of style and I think by and large we were successful however that will be also for consumers to judge as they review the results, purchase and evaluate their favourite wines from the event.

Before the final taste-off of the top 40 or so wines selected by the two panels the Judges partook of an excellent benchmark Shiraz tasting arranged and presented by Simon Osika, of Paul Osika Wines Simon presented 12 masked wines that were either significant award winners or stylistic leaders in the world of Shiraz; it was a great tasting and set the scene perfectly for our last and most serious evaluation where the final 20 wines all of Gold medal standard were lined up for the Trophy taste off.

This culminated in a very close finish with two wines on almost equal scores and leading the rest of the pack by a considerable margin.

Under the rules agreed to before the event, this forced a second taste-off but unfortunately as predicted by our newest addition to the panel, there was a three all tie which meant the Chairman had to make the final call. The result was called on the basis that the eventual winner had three top scores against it and was actually one point ahead in the first round.

But this all goes to show that there are some wonderful Shiraz wines in Australia and that the competition is hot – it was a great show.

Gary Baldwin
Stand-in Chairman of judges 2017