Fifteen influential sommeliers from the US and Canada have returned to North America with renewed excitement and enthusiasm for distinctively Australian fine wine after competing in Wine & Spirits magazine’s second annual Sommelier Scavenger Hunt, a trade competition that challenges teams to visit a wine region and hunt for wines that best express the terroir.
Australia was this year’s theme country. Each of the five teams of three sommeliers chose a grape variety and an Australian wine region then spent a few days in that region to discover some of the best and most distinctive wines it had to offer.
The hunt culminated in a gala taste-off event where each team presented its discoveries to a panel of judges, who declared Team Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale the winners with their McLaren Vale Grenache wine discoveries and the team was deemed to have offered the most compelling overview of McLaren Vale’s terroir, winemaking styles and vineyards. The team was made up of influential sommeliers Michael Madrigale of Boulud Sud (New York City), Michelle Bisceglia of Blue Hill (New York City) and Josiah Baldivino of Bay Grape (Oakland).
The real winner however is Australian wine with Wine & Spirits magazine stating on their website, ‘Regardless of how their individual teams fared, all of the sommeliers came back brimming with enthusiasm, often as much about the small producers they weren’t able to bring back as the wines they presented at the taste-off. The Aussie wines that make it to the US, they kept telling us, only scratch the surface of a country with some of the world’s oldest vines and most technologically advanced winemaking, with some of the warmest and some of the coolest growing regions on earth.’
All of the wines tasted and the regions visited by the teams spoke to Australia’s authenticity and provenance – Margaret River Chardonnay, cool-climate Pinot Noir from Tasmania and Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale Grenache and Hunter Valley Semillon.
Wine Australia’s Head of Market, North America Angela Slade said, ‘This was a unique opportunity to engage the on-premise community and get them excited about Australian fine wine. This project has inspired those who visited and tasted to take another look at Australian wine and share their findings with their peers, and there is a clear perception shift taking place as a result.’
Wine & Spirits magazine will cover the competition’s full results in its December 2015 issue, on sale late November. Wine Australia was a partner of the Sommelier Scavenger Hunt.