If you’re a wine-drinker in Australia, it’s likely you’ve allowed those little gold, silver and bronze stickers to guide your selection at some stage.
But what do they actually signify?
They’re from wine shows held across the nation each year, 32 of which meet the rigorous standards to be a qualifier for the pinnacle of the nation’s wine show pyramid – the National Wine Show (NWS) of Australia.
Under normal circumstances, all medallists from the qualifier events can enter NWS – but a two-year COVID-induced hiatus does not make for normal circumstances.
It gave organisers time to reflect on the show and what it ultimately stands for; only the best of the best.
NWS Chair Andy Gregory said competition will be fiercer than ever when it returns this month.
“We’re delighted to be back to announce the winners of the delayed 2021 awards on May 20,” he said.
“As well as introducing new qualifying standards that have made it an even more competitive show, we’re pleased to announce our inaugural partnerships with naming rights sponsor Endeavour Group and the National Press Club of Australia, as well as the continuation of our 2019 partnership with Region Media.
“These partnerships closely align with the National Wine Show’s goal to support, promote and celebrate Australia’s winemakers, who have been through some incredibly difficult times in the past few years.”
The 2022 show will be held in November this year with the same sweeping changes that are set to elevate the delayed 2021 NWS to new heights in May.
For starters, the pre-qualification program has tightened and only silver and gold medallists from the 32 qualifier shows will be eligible to throw their hat in the ring.
According to judging panel chair, Oakridge Wines chief winemaker David Bicknell, historically 90 per cent of bronze medal wines from capital city wine shows have received either another bronze medal or no medal at all when judged in the NWS.
“It’s time for the ‘good-ordinary’ wines to make way,” he said.
The resulting more competitive, higher quality show will see only the best making it to the judging table, to be further filtered by the nation’s premiere palates.
Each of the four judging panels will comprise some of Australia’s most experienced and qualified wine judges.
Following an already gruelling judgement process across 42 classes of sparkling, table red and white and fortified wines, gold medallists from eligible classes will compete for 23 highly coveted trophies.
Recipients will be determined by an individual ballot of all judges using the Borda points system, whereby voters rank the candidates in order of preference.
Judging integrity is assured by blind tasting – all wines at every stage of judging are poured by stewards out of the sight of judges.
Varietal and blended wine trophy winners compete for the Len Evans White Wine of Show trophy or the James Halliday Red Wine of Show trophy.
Winners of these proceed to compete for the top prize – the Prime Minister’s Champion Wine of Show trophy. Since 1990, five shiraz, five chardonnay, one sparkling wine, three riesling, one pinot noir, five cabernet sauvignon, three cabernet shiraz and five semillon have earned this ultimate honour.
The NWS is the only independent wine awards in Australia. Sales do not play a role; its sole purpose is to unveil the industry’s crown jewels, as it has been for about 50 years.
The advisory panel includes household name James Halliday AM, who is panel chair, as well as David Bicknell and past chairs of judges Jim Chatto and Tom Carson.
Beyond becoming even more rigorously judged than ever, this year’s show is also a celebration of the resilience of the industry, which has weathered the effects of trade sanctions, bushfires, drought and the pandemic, yet continues to produce wine the nation can be proud of.
And while you don’t need to be James Halliday to know whether you like a wine or not, those little stickers sure do come in handy.
Visit the NWS website for more details.