The IWSC is bringing its international wine awards to Western Australia, in partnership with the Margaret River Wine Association.
Wine judging in Margaret River
The IWSC (International Wine and Spirit Competition) is delighted to announce it will be taking a panel of international experts to Margaret River to judge local wines ‘in situ’ in August.
The same stringent judging process will take place, but producers will benefit from a more convenient, local delivery and the opportunity to bring their wines to the global stage.
IWSC’s CEO, Christelle Guibert, commented, “We are thrilled to be taking our international awards to Australia this year. We have seen the success our immersive judging has had in other countries, including Georgia, Turkey and South Africa, and are sure to see the same triumph in Margaret River in Australia. Both the IWSC and Margaret River’s wines’ history date back over 50 years, and we look forward to joining forces and sharing these world-class wines with our community.”
Margaret River Wine Association CEO Amanda Whiteland said she is so excited to have retailers, sommeliers and key media from the IWSC, one of the world’s most highly regarded international wine competitions, coming to Margaret River.
“We believe judging Margaret River wines in Margaret River will immerse the IWSC judges in the region, giving them lasting impressions, as well as providing our winemakers an opportunity to meet and create relationships with key buyers and influencers.”
“Partnering with the IWSC will help us showcase some of the best wines from our beautiful region to wine industry professionals and wine drinkers through a program of events and publicity of the awarded wines,” says Whiteland.
A panel of expert judges
The IWSC team of international judges include:
- Master of Wine Alistair Cooper, the global consultant wine buyer for Sydney-based Australian company United Cellars, Australia’s largest independent wine merchant.
- Veteran IWSC judge Freddy Bulmer, wine buyer for The Wine Society, the world’s oldest wine club.
- Previously the Head Sommelier at the Medlar, Melania Battiston, recently moved to Aman Hotel, taking the lead of Wine Buying for the group. Melania also recently won the 2023 Young Sommelier of the Year award.
- The fantastic Libby Brodie, founder of Bacchus & Brodie, an independent, London-based wine consultancy and City A.M.’s dedicated wine columnist, will also be heading Down Under.
- Master of Wine Beth Pearce, the Buying Director at Lay & Wheeler, one of Britain’s longest-standing fine wine merchants.
Local Australian judging experts will join the international judges:
- Erin Larkin: Reviewer of Australian and New Zealand wines for Robert Parker Wine Advocate
- Emma Farrelly: Director of Wine at The State Buildings & Como The Treasury in Perth.
- Chris Crawford: Group General Manager of Beverage for Crown Casino (Melbourne, Perth & Sydney).
- Randall Pollard: A long career as a wine merchant and wine show judge before establishing Randall’s Fine Wines in the 90s.
Judging will take place from Wednesday, 30 August to Friday, 1 September and results will be announced online the following week on 4 September 2023.
Proudly supported by WA Wines to the World; an industry-led Export Growth Partnership coordinated by Wines of Western Australia, co-funded by DPIRD.
2023 proved an extended yet very rewarding vintage in the Margaret River Wine Region. Optimal, dry weather conditions paired with the absence of any significant climatic challenges or disease pressure set the scene for a moderate season, ideal for gentle, consistent ripening across all varieties.
A slightly cool, delayed start
Winter temperatures were lower than average, which made for a quick senescence and sound dormancy for the vines. There was markedly less-than-average rain; however, the vineyards received sufficient supply to recharge soil moisture levels, paving the way for a promising growing season ahead.
The growing season began with a late budburst after a relatively cold winter that pushed vine development back by about 2-3 weeks. Spring saw less rain and cooler conditions than usual, resulting in a slow start to canopy growth and an extended flowering period for early bloomers like Chardonnay. Good fruit-set across most varieties resulted in generally higher yields than average.
Consistently warm, dry summer
Low November rain slowed into an even drier December, January and February, with less than 2 mL of rain falling collectively across the summer season. January brought consistently warm, sunny days, which saw vines start to catch up nicely on their development. Veraison was delayed by 2-3 weeks for whites and one week for reds. February, dry with plenty of sunshine and no extreme heat, provided perfect ripening conditions and harvest starting around the middle of the month.
Cold southerly breezes blowing off the ocean and cool mornings, evenings and nights helped retain natural acid in the fruit. At the same time, short periods of peak heat during the day were ideal for slow, even ripening across all varieties.
Disease pressure was minimal in the region due to seasonal consistency and dry conditions stretching from January until the middle of April. The Marri tree blossom was scarce this year, which made grapes an easy target for the native birds, and as a result, bird netting and monitoring were vital.
Reds roll off gracefully
The warm, dry conditions that kicked off the season continued for most of the reds, with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon rolling off the vine gracefully. Temperatures were a bit cooler in April, meaning it took longer for tannins to soften and for flavour to develop fully. However, the sunny, dry weather that held out until mid-April meant the fruit could remain on the vine until it was ready. Some heavy rains in mid-late April pushed out the red harvest slightly for some later ripening vineyards.
Alex Miller, Technical Viticulturist at Voyager Estate, explained, “What started as a slow burn in spring for the viticulturists resulted in a glorious summer of optimal temperatures, rewarding us with classy fruit befitting our regional reputation. April evolved into a typical patchy weather pattern as producers raced against the season’s end. Fortunately, Cabernet Sauvignon berry skins are sturdy and can withstand the dip in temperature and the odd shower. All round, another epic vintage in the bank.”
2023: An Excellent Vintage
Despite minor weather events towards the end, 2023 proved a fantastic vintage. As winemakers taste the wines as they finish fermentation, they can already see the incredible quality of what has come off the vineyards. The region’s hero varieties, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, stand out for vintage 2023. The Chardonnays are elegant and fresh with lovely natural acidity. The Cabernet Sauvignons are inky and dense, showing great intensity and a very fine tannin structure.
The region’s volume is estimated to be approximately 34,000 tonnes this year, and 6% higher than the 5-year average. The increased yields and superb quality across the region bode well for the 2023 vintage wines.
“In summary, 2023 will be remembered as an excellent vintage in Margaret River.” writes Glenn Goodall.
Sustainability Surged in 2023
For Vintage 2023, Margaret River vineyards and wineries participating in Sustainable Winegrowing Australia grew significantly to 96 members.
The 47 Certified Vineyards Members account for 1,876 hectares or 32% of Margaret River’s vineyards. An additional 22 vineyards are working towards certification. Margaret River also boasts 13 Certified Wineries that crushed 14,641 tonnes last year.
Margaret River Wine Association CEO Amanda Whiteland said, “Our Association’s Sustainability Plan was established out of a conviction to fulfil our custodial responsibilities. It recognises the importance of protecting our region’s rare biodiversity, exceptional environment value and capacity to produce some of the world’s best wines.”
“A major focus of the plan is onboarding our members to the national Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and focuses on soil, water, people, biodiversity, energy and waste. Kate Morgan, MRWA’s Sustainability Officer is working with members to achieve certification and build additional value for their wines.”