Judging Gets Underway in Hawke’s Bay’s Oldest Wine Competition
The “most exciting yet” is the first impression of head judge Rod Easthope as judging starts on the 17th annual Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards.
Rod is heading an expert judging panel that gathered today at EIT for two days of attentive tasting and testing. The six judges is touted as one of the most experienced and diverse line-ups the competition has seen.
“Hawke’s Bay has such a breadth of winemaking talent and world class wines. The sheer diversity of wines from our vast region of differing soils and microclimates makes for two full days of fascinating evaluation.
Coming off the back of four previously stellar vintages, this year’s entries will undoubtedly be showing well.”
This year’s panel includes international wine judge and Zephyr winemaker Ben Glover, wine columnist and ‘Cuisine’ writer Ralph Kyte-Powell, Consumer magazine wine taster Laura Hutchinson, wine judge and winemaker Olly Masters, Richard Tollenaar and highly decorated winemaker Kate Radburnd.
Chairman of Judges Rod Easthope notes “In the past, local winemakers dominated the panels, however, the trend in recent years is to utilise a greater diversity of wine experience. Having a balance of technical palates alongside commentators, who often have more contemporary knowledge of what works in the market, is now critical to ensure relevant results.”
With nearly four hundred entries from the region’s 2014/15 and 16 vintages to taste and judge, competition is expected to be fierce.
Each judge has the task of tasting just under one hundred different wines each, per day. It’s a test of both concentration and mindfulness to give each wine the same level of respect and attention.
“What Hawke’s Bay offers is what the global market wants; that fresh vibrancy, purity of flavour and delicacy rather than sheer grunt and power that comes with a lot of the world’s wines.
“We’re in the box seat to provide fruit purity and balance so it’s about highlighting those wines within the lineup, that’s our big job,” said Mr Easthope.
This year’s competition spans 18 categories, with Chardonnay and Syrah varieties hotly contested.
“We’re known for our Syrah and word is finally getting out to consumers and wine pundits. We have a particular duty with that cultivar to make sure those wines get noted around the world, it’s always an exciting variety that our judges fight over!
“The other binding category is Chardonnay. It’s the glue that keeps Hawke’s Bay ticking and I’d argue we lead in that field consistently.”
Mr Easthope says judging is becoming more and more difficult.
“It’s very rare now to come across a wine with a glaring technical fault because our winemaking knowledge has become so good. You could say it’s become more of a fashion show, where judging comes down to subjectivity, not just technical correctness.”
The awards evening held 17 October is a glittering event attracting five hundred esteemed guests and sponsors to Waikoko Gardens at the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds.
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