First the drought, then the black summer bush fires and lastly, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could not stop the region’s most competitive viticulturists from entering in the highly anticipated Hunter Valley Wine Show.
For lovers of fine wine the chance to taste hundreds of different wines would be manna from heaven. But for judges at the annual Show, this task is serious business.
The COVID safe event is well underway, with a diverse panel of judges sniffing, swirling and spitting hundreds of wines at the second.
President of the committee Craig Saywell said despite the rocky year the committee, judges and competitors are thrilled to be able to proceed with the event in these uncertain times.
“We are all really happy to have been given the green light to proceed with the event considering all of the challenges we have had to face,” said Craig.
“Some of the changes we have had to implement include stewards are wearing gloves and masks, stewards only tasting from their glasses (no sharing) and correct washing of classes after use.”
Due to the smoke damage some of the bushfires had on crops, the number of entries are slightly down compared to previous years.
“We are about ten percent down in entries compared to last year so sitting around roughly six hundred entries.
“Last year we had around 80 entries for 2019 semillon, the region’s trade mark white variety, this year we have only 30 entries because of the fires,” Craig continued.
With international and interstate travel on hold, the panel of judges have been hand selected from across NSW.
This year Ian Riggs stepped back into the role as the Chair of Judges.
“This year’s panel of judges have a wide skillset,” Ian said. “Over the decades, there are a lot of strong regional wine shows, so the panel have all judged extensively throughout Australian and NSW, so we are lucky to have such a great depth of judges here in NSW,” he continued.
The wine connoisseurs have been individually tasting in a socially distanced manner with the assistance of Ipads to help keep track of their marks and notes.
“Just because we have struggled in this vintage, doesn’t mean we can’t promote the Hunter for having some really great wines because they are there,” Ian continued.
“The winemakers have done an outstanding job in terms of handling the conditions from getting the fruit off to whole bunch pressing, clean ferments and bottling early.
“Every thing and every trick a winemaker could possibly employ has been used to get the product in the bottle and I think the consumers will be very happy with them.
“Those that have had a crack at 2020 vintage have done a really good job. Another highlight of the show so far has been the 2018 shiraz entries.
“The 2018 shiraz was a really outstanding vintage in the Hunter with four gold medals in that class which reflect how strong that vintage was.”
The Hunter Valley Wine Show attracts the highest calibre of Australian and International judges and continues to be an innovative, progressive show.
Winners will be announced at the awards luncheon next week at Ben Ean, Pokolbin with guest numbers down from 400 to 100 due to COVID restrictions.
Article thanks to the Singleton Argus 28 October 2020