It’s been a hectic few days judging at the 125th Rutherglen Wine Show, which concludes with the trophy-judging tomorrow. It is my second experience judging in Australia and, no doubt about it, the number of wines to be assessed daily- between around 100 & 150 – is daunting.
It’s a subject of heated debate in Australia (elsewhere too) and not without good reason. I share reservations about palate fatigue when tasting so many wines. Fortunately the scheduling has been smart, with whites interleaved with reds. Mini-golf breaks too (the putting green pictured -Decanter please take note!)
Moreover because show Chair Chris Pfeiffer (pictured top) says “our customers are exhibitors”, an inherent part of the judging process is to provide exhibitors with feedback on their wine “to improve the breed.” So after every flight, teams spend a good deal of time discussing their scores, while an official scribe records our views.
Best of all for judges, because Rutherglen is renowned for its fortified wines and the show incorporates The Australian Fortified Wine Show, everyone has simultaneously reviewed the apera styles (sherry) and vintage (vintage Port) categories then been treated to a masterclass in which leading fortified winemakers – David Morris of Morris Wines, James Godfrey of Treasury Wine Estates and Jen Pffeifer of Pfeiffer Wines (pictured) – have shared their take on the entries, providing a rare insight into what makes Australia’s fortifieds tick (or not, as the case may be).
Where fortified production is a super-niche area and its winemakers an endangered species it’s absolutely critical to keep the tradition alive by knowledge-sharing in this way and, of course, celebrating such unique wines at the show. There has been a swag of gold medals for the rare tawny category which I judged today, rare Muscats too according to fellow judge Matt Skinner who shared this golden legged wine with me.
I’m look forward to getting out of the judging room and into the vineyards and cellars later this week to learn more about fortified wine growing and making in Rutherglen. Meantime, here are some photos from the show so far.