IWSC 2024 Wine Judging. Judges’ deliberations on Australian wine

Wine news

Mon 13 May 2024

By Mila Gorchakova

As a country with a diversity of growing conditions, grapes and wine styles, Australia brings an exciting challenge for our judges’ palates each year. The 2024 Wine Judging was no exception. From bold Shiraz to elegant Pinot Noir, from rich, complex Riesling to Chardonnay made in every possible style – our judges were treated to an exhilarating patchwork of Australian wines.

“These were a great two days of judging where we saw a broad spectrum of wines from all over Australia, with some very high-quality examples,” shared the IWSC Judging Committee member Alistair Cooper MW who oversaw the two days of tasting Australian wines.

Shiraz dominated the red flights with judges admiring the great quality of wines and noting that there were some truly refined expressions. “We had several flights of Barossa Shiraz, and I was quite impressed by the blend between traditional and modern styles of Barossa. We saw judicious use of oak which was very positive in those more traditional styles. The wines were showing less oak and far more of that lovely, vibrant fruit,” said Alistair Cooper MW.

The panels noted the great consistency and a sense of place from Barossa Shiraz, with many full-bodied wines which were described as plush, yet elegant and finessed. “One particular example that really blew me away was so clearly Barossa – and it was the modern style of Barossa, allowing that fruit to express itself,” said Alistair Cooper MW. The judges unanimously awarded this Shiraz with gold, admiring its “deep intense plummy character with lovely meaty and herbal notes" and its "full but silky palate”.

Another standout region for Shiraz was McLaren Vale. “McLaren Vale Shiraz were solid and performed as I would expect them to. We tasted many well-made wines that were true to their origin,” noted Alistair Cooper MW.

McLaren Vale Shiraz scooped the medals, with two standout wines awarded with gold. The top performers were both powerful and refined, with concentrated fruit aromas, chocolate notes and spiciness on the nose; as well as a firm palate with ripe tannins and a long finish. “Stylish!” – exclaimed the judges describing these expressions of Shiraz.

Our experts highlighted the growing quality of Shiraz from the slightly overlooked part of South Australia – Padthaway: “The region we were most impressed with was Padthaway, for its consistency and generosity. The wines offer a lot of value and typicity and this is a region we felt we could explore for the UK market.”

Moving away from South Australia, Victoria Shiraz also performed well this year, with many silver and bronze medals awarded. Equally, New South Wales Shiraz showed "typicity of style, with more savoury, medium-bodied wines", shared the judges.

Cabernet Sauvignon was another standout red variety, with many high-quality examples from different parts of Australia.

“We had a very interesting flight of Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale, with great variation in styles, from soft and elegant to bold and structured,” shared the judges.

Another panel highlighted the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon from Barossa: “Barossan Cabernet was an excellent flight, with good typicity and lots of well-made wines, showing that Cabernet is perhaps unfairly in the shadow of Shiraz in this region.”

The judges praised one of the particularly impressive Barossan Cabernet Sauvignons: “It's rich, ripe, savoury, with firm tannins and balancing acids. Well-balanced, concentrated, showing some depth, length and promise.”

Australian Pinot Noir also showed well with wines from Victoria and Tasmania among the highlights.

We hada fairly solid flight of Pinot Noir from Victoria, with wines which were generally well made. The balance and structure across the board were good, though some wines had more alluring aromatics and flavours than others,” noted the judges. The best examples were expressive and focused, with purity of fruit and a refreshing acidity. One of the top Pinot Noirs from Tasmania earned praise for its “aromas of bright red strawberries and wild cranberries. The palate is energetic and charming, with lightness and fragrances”.

Overall, talking about Australian red wines, the judges noted that the best examples were fresh and elegant, not overly extracted, showing a judicious use of oak.

Moving on to whites, Chardonnay was the number one grape on show. The judges had what they described as “a very solid flight of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay”.

Adelaide Hills can sometimes create a bit of a divide within Australian enthusiasts, but I was very impressed with what we had today. There was one particular wine that again, really blew the panel away,” said Alistair Cooper MW. The wine was made in a reductive style, which was nicely balanced by ample aromas and flavours of “green apple and blossom, with lively acidity and creamy texture,” shared the judges awarding the wine with a firm gold.  

Chardonnay from the cooler sites of Victoria and Tasmania impressed the judges with its freshness and generous fruit coupled with a mineral character. A standout Yarra Valley example showed good freshness on the nose, with melon, pineapple and a touch of struck match. Lovely texture, with a mineral backbone, integrated oak, good balance and length.”

Talking of Riesling, the judges enjoyed “the freshness and varietal definition of Riesling from Clare and Eden Valley” noting that the flights reminded them of the rich diversity of Riesling styles from Australia”.

Eden Valley Riesling was an impressive flight with young wines showing potential to age, and older wines showing great complexity and finesse,” said the judges.

One of the standout Eden Valley Rieslings that saw a few years in the bottle captivated our judges with its “lime and grapefruit aromas with pronounced minerality and petrol notes”, our experts describing it as a “great example with lots of energy, showing a sense of place.”

Among other white grapes, several Italian varieties showed “promise of a new frontier for Australia” according to our judges who highlighted the quality of Fiano, Vermentino and Pinot Grigio. “The Pinot Grigio flight was better than expected, with a well-deserved silver – this was an excellent quality benchmark,” said our experts.   

The sweet and fortified wines were a pleasant way to finish both judging days, with an impressive number of medals awarded to wines from across Australia, but especially from Riverina and Rutherglen. The latter region earned two strong golds.

Rutherglen Muscat was rich in depth and complexity, consistency and showed a wonderful sense of personality and place,” highlighted the judges. One of the standout wines wowed our judges who described it as having a, beautiful brooding raisin nose, sweet spice, treacle, Parmesan and dark truffle, rich, ripe and slightly heady with a lingering Christmas cake finish.”

The judges are looking forward to tasting a variety of wines from Western Australia during our Global Wine Judging in Margaret River next month. As for our London Judging, the medal results will be announced on 20 May.