Multi-Regional, World First Wine Judging Event Hailed Success!

Three days of simultaneous judging of 364 wine exhibits from 29 different wine regions in Coonawarra and Margaret River wrapped up the 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langton’s last week.

In what is believed to be a world first, the judging panels, stewards and organising teams based in Coonawarra South Australia, Margaret River in Western Australia and Yarra Valley Victoria connected through Zoom, Skype, telephone, social media and the AWRI wine show judging software, to make the show run smoothly.

It was a true celebration of the world’s most planted variety and the Australian regions who champion the variety.

In the lead up to the event, James Halliday said he was looking forward to the innovation.”As Australian cabernet styles continue to evolve and increasingly reflect their sense of place, it is appropriate that the Cabernet Challenge be simultaneously judged in three regions across the country,” he said.

Judging was expected to take place in the Yarra Valley however restrictions prevented this from occurring.

Coonawarra, long recognised to be the birthplace of premium Australian Cabernets, was not surprisingly approached to be involved in esteemed judging event, which for the past five years had been hosted in Margaret River.

Coonawarra Vignerons Executive Officer, Heidi Eldridge, said the region was honoured to co-host the 2020 event and praised the work of the organising parties to bring the event together despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 and distance between the host locations. “There was a lot of logistics involved directing entries across the country to ensure that each location had a sample of every bottle to be judged. To see it all come together on the ground and virtually through the live streaming was very satisfying”.

In each of the two judging locations a panel of 5 judges, tasted close to 200 wines over two days, with a further 40 wines assessed on the third and final day, to determine the regional trophy winners and overall Cabernet Champion in a virtual taste off via Zoom.

The South Australian based judging panel was represented by acclaimed winemakers Pete Bissell, formerly of Balnaves of Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills based Coonawarra/McLaren Vale winemaker Andrew “Ox’ Hardy, and Barossa Baron Jane Ferrari. Penley Estate winemaker Lauren Hansen and Otellia winemaker Matilda Innes acted as associate judges.

Margaret River Panel Chair, Robert Mann said at the commencement of Day-One that “people drink wine for enjoyment, but people drink cabernet for enlightenment”.

Given the success of the event, Caroline Evans, Executive Officer of Wine Yarra Valley, believes it sets a benchmark for future wine judging, “There is every possibility that future single variety wine shows will proceed with a collaborative effort between regions that champion particular signature varieties.”

During the 3-days of judging, five live-crosses to the judging venues were shared on Facebook and Instagram, which have been watched by over 8,500 people to-date. The pre-teaser CABERNET LIVE that was broadcast on International Cabernet Day has also had over 14,000 views, showing a huge interest in Cabernet Sauvignon by social media users.

Results of the regional trophy winners and overall Champion Cabernet are yet to be announced with the highly anticipated award ceremony to be streamed live via Langton’s Youtube channel and on Facebook at 7:30pm ACST (8pm AEST) Thursday 24th September. Wine enthusiasts across the nation are invited to tune in with an opportunity to purchase limited release trophy winners wine packs offered by Langton’s.

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