Halliday Awards 2022 by Ned Goodwin MW
Friday, August 13, 2021 in News
Master of Wine Ned Goodwin is the Wine Companion’s specialist in McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, and regional NSW. He writes for Langton’s about the new shape of the Wine Companion team and his observations about the Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2022.
Shop the Halliday Awards Winners here.
As a member of the Halliday Tasting Team, I have noted a number of salient changes to a dynamic that serves to elucidate Australian wine as a kernel of critiques, served up each year as a slew of online reviews and ultimately, the publication of The Wine Companion. The Companion remains Australia’s most widely read and influential guide to the country’s wines.
The Tasting Team has grown since I came on board four-years ago. Moreover, each member of the team now has designated regions of expertise upon which to focus, serving as a platform for more acute analyses of stylistic evolutions, regional trends and the evolving (or devolving) quality at any particular address. In the past the wines that came across one’s tasting bench were simply rotated, ideally ensuring that the same wines did not pass under the same nose across consecutive years. This was a noble pursuit, perhaps, but often an unachievable one.
Ned Goodwin, Master of Wine
This also means that certain tasters are bound to taste a greater number of wines than others and in certain cases, a higher calibre of wine across the board. Barossa, for example, produces vastly more wine than Margaret River, albeit, the percentage of premium wine (defined by price) from Margaret River is exponentially higher than any other region in the country.
As of this year, our tasting responsibilities are also ongoing, allowing us to taste wines incrementally, upon release. These critiques are then uploaded to the website, before publication in the next edition of The Companion. In the past, wines were sent to a designated address (in my case, a suitably large, temperature-controlled Kennards locker) between November and April. This meant that each taster faced a tsunami of wine that was confrontational both physically and mentally. It was not uncommon to taste upwards of 60 wines in a session to meet the deadline while juggling fatigue, dehydration, dental issues and kids’ extracurriculars. Part of the discipline, I suppose!
Categories that better reflect evolutionary styles, divergent with contemporary international trends in both the vineyard and winery, have also been introduced. Fresher styles are championed. ‘Amber’ is now a dedicated category in a taster’s pulldown options to designate colour, for example. Today, turbidity in a Pétillant-Naturel, often inherent to the style, is something to be discussed among Team members, rather than dismissed. The rise of an ilk of Grenache that is transparent, diaphanous, red fruit of accent and increasingly elegant and savoury due to courageously extracted tannins, is applauded. Winemaking chicanery is frowned upon by the Team, as much as wines embedded with a sense of place are lauded. The recognition, too, of a phalanx of sturdy Italian grape varieties, expanding each year, is testament to both the acknowledgement of Climate Change and the viticultural and winemaking nous needed to combat it. The anachronistic notion that these cultivars are still ‘alternative’, is a source of vigorous debate. These are but a few issues that reflect the fluidity of change, concepts of quality and how these transpire across the Australian winescape and at the Companion.
Which brings me to what is arguably the most positive of all the changes: the congregation of the Team at the conclusion of tastings, submission of notes and nominations for the ‘Best Of’ awards. It is at this gathering that issues such as those raised above are pondered, debated and ironed into a contextual and critical rubric that allows us to pit our very best wines against others in the same category nominated by other tasters, while also drawing parallels with the greatest examples internationally. It was at this gathering that the final victors were decided.
‘...an Australian future more exciting than ever before.’
This gathering of minds proved fertile ground for a decision to expand the ‘Best Of’ categories, while giving mention to those wines that were strongly considered as the finest, without ascending the podium. To call these wines ‘runners up’ fails to communicate how riveting many are. Excitingly, these are wines not merely alloyed by the prerequisites of intrinsic quality, but wines that stir the drinker into glimpsing a lens into an Australian future more exciting than ever before.
Ned Goodwin is Master of Wine and a Len Evans Scholar (Dux), as well as being an educator, commentator, communicator, judge and host of all things wine.
Explore the award winning and shortlisted wines and wineries here.