Want to know what the best part about wine show judging is? The judge’s dinner.
That’s because the judging is less glamorous than you’d think. Often, it’s a mouth-destroying slog, with oceans of mundane bronze medal wines punctuated by disagreements about what deserves a gold. Stir in how hungry you get (the constant acidity/alcohol makes me just want to eat cheese all day), and a rich/hearty meal can’t come fast enough.
Typically, the judge’s dinner is an excuse to pull something from your cellar and share it with people who give a shit. Easy! Sometimes there is a theme, sometimes, it’s more of an esoteric exercise (with lots of ego stroking), and sometimes it’s just randomness.
The ANZ Boutique Wine Show judge’s dinner last week offered up a real wine lucky dip. A few discoveries, a few hits, a few misses, but generally good stuff. A bit like the show itself, really, which can deliver wonderful surprises (like the trophy-winning fizz. I’ll talk more about it when the results come out).
Speaking of top fizz, we kicked off the dinner with this Nicholas Feuillatte Blanc de Noirs 2012, which is easily the best Feuillatte I’ve had this decade (maybe ever). Bone dry, layered, interesting, and still youthful too.
The Odinstal below had some sulphur issues, so that’s a miss, but the Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Riesling 2015 had a super acid/sugar balance that again reminded me that I need to go to Canada just for the wine.
I thought the Rothbury Estate Sem was a bit advanced, but still some Sem charisma. The Audrey Wilkinson Museum Release Semillon 2006, however, was rudely youthful. Still plenty of green, and lots of life.
There were high hopes for the Stellenrust Chenin, but it looked a bit broad and diffuse. A similar story with the Domaine Pinson Le Clos which looked older than 2020 (and continues my run of underwhelming Chablis).
Others loved the Tyrrell’s Chardonnay below, but I thought the ripe fruit, toasty oak and tangy acid was acres apart. Yeah, nah.
The Yangarra Ovitelli Grenache 2017 looked a bit wild and meaty at first, but I came back for a second look and the core of red fruit was delicious. Alongside, the Hartford Dina’s Vineyard Zinfandel 2019 looked super, although I had the briefest sip before I had to move on.
There was much more lingering over the Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2012 because it came from my cellar. Smashing wine that, which manages to combine the cerebral spice that we think of in ‘Syrah’ but backed by the richness and volume of ‘Shiraz’. In a great place, no hurry to drink, but very seductive now. The Barossa Old Vine Company Shiraz 2006 that was served alongside looked honest, generous, predictable, Solid Barossa Shiraz, looking soft but pleasant.
Next, came the main event. A Barolo trio that overshadowed everything before it. The Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2016 had that magical combination of old school Barolo ‘mediumnes’ but with a lift and perfume of violets and tar that was just magic. Loved it. The G.D. Vajra Barolo Coste di Rose 2015 had more volume, more power, less prettiness, more ’15 ripe fruit, and lots to lust over. If pressed, I’d go Marcarini over Vajra but gee you’d finish bottles of either. Finally, a Massolino Parussi Barolo 2013 (not pictured) which was an absolute powerhouse. Walls of deep richness, heavyweight tannins, and so long. It was the brute of the bracket, and vied closely with the Marcarini for top status. Magnificence all round.
After a big thanks to everyone for the fancy wines, I went home to get up and start judging all over again…
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