10 years ago on a sunny spring afternoon in October I found myself walking down
a steep incline through knee high green grass to share wine and rustic food
with a bunch of artisan producers in Basket Range. Among the guests were
brewers, winemakers, cheese makers, wine merchants, restaurateurs and
sommeliers to name a few. I remember spring wild flowers and looking down to
the valley below.
the afternoon passed, wines were shared, new friendships created, and open
conversations had as though we were all automatically connected through a love
of food and wine. This gathering left me with the warmest sense of community,
my first year judging the Adelaide Review Hot 100 SA Wines.
that spring day, the show has always been a highlight of the wine show
calendar. Over the years I’ve judged with and under the guidance of so many
talented and passionate people. Through a mixture of winemakers, artisans and
curators I have experienced how the Hot 100 creates a platform not only to
mentor wine judges but also to engage so many to delve deeper into wine.
show has the ability to push you further at just the right time. In my earlier
years I recall one panel chair’s quiet word to me. “Your descriptors are good,
but what’s happening after? What about tannin, explore the wine’s texture, how
does the wine make you feel?” Why not question these aspects of a wine? The
most attuned judges will bring their whole self to a wine assessment. A 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.
We begin each show with a simple goal, to find and celebrate the most drinkable wines in South Australia. One of the key differences between Hot 100 Wines and more conventional shows is that we assess samples by wine style, not grape varietal as it is perceived by the winemaker who enters their wine. It’s so very refreshing to dance along blindly down a tasting flight not assessing if a wine tastes strongly enough of varietal character, but simply does it fit the brief in terms of the class? As a taster your senses are heightened as young, fresh chardonnays are placed blindly next to rieslings or even a fiano, providing an absolute wonderland of descriptors.