Last week, for the first time in IWSC’s history, our judges traveled to Australia. It was also the first time our in-situ judging focused on the wines of a particular region and not the whole country. Known as the ‘boutique region’ of Australia, Margaret River is famous for its premium wines. Our experts were delighted to learn more about the winemaking traditions and trends of this part of Australia during the judging organised in partnership with Margaret River Wine Association.
Master of Wine Alistair Cooper oversaw the judging panels which included international and local experts. Among our international judges who traveled to Australia were Master of Wine Beth Pearce, Freddy Bulmer, Melania Battiston and Libby Brodie. They were joined by the Australian wine professionals and communicators – Randall Pollard, Erin Larkin, Chris Crawford and Emma Farrelly.
Following the tasting, our judges spoke highly of the quality of all entries, noting that the bar had been raised very high. Over 250 wines were tasted and a vast majority of them were awarded with medals – be it gold, silver or bronze. More than 230 medals were awarded to the wines judged in Margaret River; over 250 medals were awarded to Margaret River wines tasted both during our in-situ awards and during the wine judging in the UK.
The two most cultivated grape varieties of Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, ruled the tasting in terms of the number and the quality of entries. Naturally, it was Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines that earned most of the medals. Out of just over 20 golds, 11 were awarded to Chardonnays and 10 to Cabernet Sauvignons.
The judges were utterly impressed with the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon wines. These, according to our experts, showed real complexity and great ageing potential. Our experts felt that while the 2022 Cabernets were still young, they would develop beautifully in the bottle. “There's a range of styles in the Cabernet from 2021 and 2022, with some on the more commercial end of the spectrum, with glossy oak and polished pastille fruit, and some wines where the briney, savoury influence creates delicious complexity," said the judges. "We found high quality and high scores in both camps and a place for both in the global market." The older vintages, such as 2018 and 2019, were showing excellent, with firm structure, as well as refined flavours of dry spice and truffles.
One of the gold-winning wines, Cape Naturaliste Vineyard Torpedo Rocks Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 earned a brilliant score of 97 points, the judges describing it as "superb" and praising its alluring nose “with a violet and lavender undertone supporting the fruit. This is supple and polished and poised. The finish is good, with great Margaret River character.”
As for the Margaret River Chardonnays, the 2022 vintage was proclaimed stellar by our judges, who admired the Burgundy-like flinty character and layers of fruit flavours. Our experts appreciated a wide range of Chardonnay styles among the entries, with various approaches to winemaking and, particularly, the use of oak. The most brilliant wines, according to the judges, captured the phenolic character of the local Chardonnay clone, as well the natural zingy pink grapefruit acidity.
The highest-scoring Chardonnay was Stella Bella Wines Luminosa Chardonnay 2022 – 97 points and a gold medal. The judges admired the vibrant fruit and the skilful use of oak, as well as the wine's mineral profile: “Oyster shell, delicate nuttiness, perfectly managed reduction. Exactly what you want from Margaret River Chardonnay. This tastes delicious too, with great structure and layers of flavour. It's complex and powerful, but refined too.”
One of the producers, Cherubino, received an impressive total of 4 gold medals for their Chardonnay wines - Chardonnay 2022, Dijon Chardonnay 2022 and Gingin Chardonnay from Margaret River, as well as Pemberton Chardonnay 2022.
Among other white whites, the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends were the most notable ones, earning several bronze medals and one strong gold. The gold winner, Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2023 displayed a gorgeous aroma profile of "green pineapple, pine and herbs", as well as a "juicy and succulent palate, still with a distinct pine note. Feels textural, with lots of citrus zest."
A few silver and bronze medals, as well as one gold, went to Shiraz, which may not be the most widely cultivated grape in Western Australia, but it definitely has the potential according to our judges. The gold-winning wine, Passel Estate Lot 71 Reserve Syrah 2018 impressed the judges with its Rhone-like character showing "a lot of earthy feral development and truffle. Some mint in the background. More pure and black-fruited on the palate, grainy tannins and fresh acidity."
Overall, the judges were very impressed by the quality of Margaret River wines which showed complexity and represented a variety of styles while maintaining a distinctive regional character.
Discover full medal results here.