Switch Wine’s Vanessa Altmann returned to the Hot 100 SA Wines judging team this year after her first experience changed her approach to winemaking.
After three days of stained red teeth and cultural adventure, The Adelaide Review Hot 100 SA Wines experience is one that challenges and engages the assessors to view wine differently. The judges not only assess the technical aspect of the wine’s quality but also dig deeper to truly experience each drop. Whether we drink wine socially or formally assess it, the Hot 100 acknowledges that our consumption doesn’t occur in a vacant space but is actually bursting with outside influences. But what if we took this experience a step further, as drinkers and judges, to embrace the cultural essence of wine, which is equal to its technical quality? A whole new world opened for me as a winemaker after my first Hot 100 experience. A stronger connection emerged between my culture and the wines as an expression of my surroundings, values and influences. This connection is part of the Hot 100 experience. Wine assessors are immersed in vast spectrum of culture, from street food and fine dining experiences to visits to Adelaide’s Museum of Economic Botany and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. This city’s culture surrounds us. It is the song in my head, the memories of shared meals and wine. A wine assessor’s palate is not only made up of taste buds, but also a connection to the mind and heart, which is fuelled by experiences from the past and hopes for the future. It is the realisation that each judge’s interpretation of wine quality will vary from the judge standing next to them, or taken in another context, the person who is sitting beside them in a wine bar. With these fresh insights I took my wine home, away from the lab, and put it back on my family’s table. I began to embrace this connection to culture as the wines I created evolved; it was a conscious production shift to live each wine as it was created. This has completely changed the intent and my interaction with each parcel of fruit. This shift in focus allowed the wines to lead me along their journey, to be present as they evolved and I find new ways to relate to my love of wine and celebrate its diversity. I embarked on a new kind of wine this year, a wine to reflect the value of connections to what we drink and how this interplays with the community. Organic fruit was grown and picked by friends – fermented whole white grapes on skin, with stalk – and finally handbottled in the same place. The vibrancy of South Australia’s food, wine, music and culture do not exist as individual threads, but are among many weaved through our community fuelling much richness. The Hot 100 SA Wines brings a new momentum to our conversation around what culture means to each of us and is imprinted in the minds and hearts of those engaged and revitalised by its celebration of South Australia.