World first multi-regional wine judging event involving Coonawarra is hailed a success

SUCCESSFUL: Coonawarra, long recognised to be the birthplace of premium Australian Cabernets, joined the recent national Cabernet Challenge judging. Photo: Supplied.

SUCCESSFUL: Coonawarra, long recognised to be the birthplace of premium Australian Cabernets, joined the recent national Cabernet Challenge judging. Photo: Supplied.

The journey for a bunch of Aussie winemakers who recently judged more than 300 wines from about 30 wine regions in three days is over - winding up a successful 2020 national wine competition which involved Coonawarra.

Yet more impressively is for the first time the judges from Coonawarra, Margaret River, and Yarra Valley connected through online platforms to complete the James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langtons.

Coonawarra Vignerons executive officer Heidi Eldridge explained how judging was expected to take place in the Yarra Valley, however restrictions brought on by COVID-19 prevented this from occurring.

Coonawarra, long recognised to be the birthplace of premium Australian Cabernets, was unsurprisingly approached to be involved in the esteemed judging event, which for the past five years had been hosted in Margaret River.

"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," Ms Eldridge said.

"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 what is believed to be a world first, the judging panels, stewards and organising teams based connected through Zoom, Skype, telephone, social media and the AWRI wine show judging software, to make the show run smoothly.

Judges shared how the challenge was a true celebration of the world's most planted variety, and the Australian regions who champion the variety.

To see it all come together on the ground and virtually through the live streaming was very satisfying.

Coonawarra Vignerons executive officer Heidi Eldridge

In the lead up to the event, wine connoisseur 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.

In each of the two judging locations, a panel of five 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 on day one that "people drink wine for enjoyment, but people drink cabernet for enlightenment".

Given the success of the event, Wine Yarra Valley executive officer Caroline Evans believes it now 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," she said.

During the judging, five live-crosses to the judging venues were shared on Facebook and Instagram, which were watched by over 8500 people to-date.

The pre-teaser Cabernet Live, broadcast on International Cabernet Day, so far has achieved more than 14,000 views, showing a resounding interest in Cabernet Sauvignon by social media users.

Results of the regional trophy winners and overall Champion Cabernet will be announced during an awards ceremony will be streamed live via Langton's Youtube channel and on Facebook at 7.30pm ACST (8pm AEST) Thursday, September 24.

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.

In other news: