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Howard Duncan
22 September 2017 | Howard Duncan

This week at Artisans - Corey Ryan - Barossa Wine Show Judge


This week at Artisans...

I'm having a chat with Corey Ryan (the bloke on the left) from Sons of Eden about his time judging at last week's Barossa Wine Show. This time around, it's a chat with benefits as Corey stumps up for lunch from the Harvest Kitchen team. Hutton Vale lamb, heirloom roast carrots and crispy deep fried chicken. We decline the offer of freshly baked sour dough bread, but say yes to local olives to kick things off with a glass of Spinifex Rosé. The sun is can be good in the Barossa!

Lunch is a fast affair, so I jump straight in to the lamb...and quickly get to the point of this week's chat. How do winemakers benefit from entering their wines in wine shows? And what do wine drinkers get out of the whole process of a bunch of folk spending 3 days in a shed wearing white coats and swilling, tasting and spitting 100's of wines, clipboard and pen in hand? Corey's well set to answer (after he's had a few goes at the fried chicken) given he debuted at the Barossa Wine Show as an associate judge back in 1996! (His mum must have sent him off with a packed lunch and his bus fare...I didn't think the bloke was that old!)

"For a Barossa winemaker, the local show gives you the chance to benchmark your wine against others from within the region, to see different expressions of the same variety from the same region, without the distractions of seeing the labels or knowing who made what wine. It's also an opportunity to discover and appreciate style evolution...and maybe gain a few insights to take back to your own winery. And from a personal perspective being involved as a judge enables me to improve my tasting skills. Spending a day tasting wine might sound like a lot of fun, but for a judge it demands plenty of's hard work!"

I've often thought that too many winemakers can spoil the broth when it comes to judging wines at wine shows. A tendency for the merits of a wine to be assessed purely on its technical qualities, rather than what we wine drinkers want which is flavour and drinkability. But as Corey explains, the judging panels these days are a mixed bunch.

"No doubt we've got plenty of experienced winemakers involved on the judging panels, but we've also got wine journalists, winery managers and sales people involved as well. So there's a balance within each panel of 3 judges and 3 associate judges ensuring the wines winning the awards are both technically sound and also quality expressions of what wine drinkers should expect from the region and the variety. A great example of that is Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon from the Saltram won the trophy for best Cabernet at the show, and you can pick it up a bottle at Dan Murphy's for less than $20. So there's real value for the wine drinkers in these shows and they can buy with confidence any of the wines that receive awards. And that's not just the trophy winners. Be it bronze, silver or gold, a medal winning wine will be a great reflection of wine quality and wine style from the region, variety and vintage."

Whether Corey is too focused on the heirloom carrots, or just a humble bloke...but throughout lunch he politely neglects to mention Sons of Eden went all right at this year's Barossa Show, picking up the trophy for Most Successful Medium Sized Producer...the third time in the last six years, pitching the 'Sons' as the Hawks of the Barossa medium winemaker league. "Simon and I are just happy making wines that we like to drink, but it's great when your peers also reckon you're making good wine."

Neither Simon or Corey were available to don the penguin suits and be on hand to accept the trophy at Thursday night's dinner....leaving me to make my debut appearance in the role of trophy collector. I'm very happy to report that despite enthusiastic celebrations that stretched well into the next morning,  I neither lost nor broke the trophy and it now has pride of place at the Sons of Eden winery. If you'd like to know what all the fuss is about, then I suggest grabbing a special six pack of the wines that each won medals at last week's Show. You can either drop into Artisans anytime, or go shopping on line by clicking here. $230 for a six pack of medal winning Barossa wines - great value drinking.

The lamb's all gone, only carrot tops remain and we're each insisting the other has the last piece of the fried chicken (I graciously accept) lunch is officially a wrap and it's time to get back to work this week at Artisans.

Cheers from Howard at Artisans.



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