Glasses swirl at Hunter Valley Wine Show

International judge Sarah Ahmed.
International judge Sarah Ahmed.

FOR lovers of fine wine the chance to taste 730 different wines would be manna from heaven.

But for judges at the annual Hunter Valley Wine Show, this task is very serious business.

Gathered in a mess at Singleton’s Lone Pine Barracks, the white-coated experts were busy swirling glasses and giving the agitated wine a good sniff before a quick sip and appreciation and then a spit into a sawdust-filled bucket.

Each of the entries from the 69 exhibitors will go through the same judging procedure for the next couple of days before the winners and trophy recipients are announced on Friday.

Sponsored by Clear Image, the show is one of the oldest in the country having first taken place in 1848.

This year’s international judge was Sarah Ahmed, aka The Wine Detective.

Her moniker betrays her first career choice as a lawyer who specialised in litigation.

“I like to bring a forensic approach to wine judging and appreciation,” she said.

“All the clues are in the glass and it’s less dry than law.”

Ms Ahmed is a specialist on wines from Australia and Portugal and she is kept  busy not only judging but also writing and speaking about wine.

Her wine career started 15 years ago when she worked for Oddbins, eventually managing the company’s fine wine outlet in London.

“Oddbins had plenty of Australian wines on their shelves and from contacting the producers I began my education on your wines,” she said.

“Australian winemakers are so passionate about their product they are great to deal with there is none of the snobbery you find with the European winemakers.”

Of the local wines, Ms Ahmed said our semilions, especially the aged ones, were among her favourites.

“Hunter Valley mid-weight wines have fantastic character and have a real sense of place,” she said.

When asked to comment on the call for the protection of the Hunter’s viticultural  districts she said she had visited the Kirkton site at Lower Belford and was shocked to see the place of the country’s first plantings so forgotten.

“You should protect this industry; it is the country’s oldest area and recognised throughout the world,” she said.


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