Sommeliers Australia Education Scholarship 2010 – Day 1
Monday saw the beginning of the 2010 Sommeliers Australia Education Scholarship
, where 12 candidates from across Australia have gathered in Melbourne to participate in an intensive 5 day course. The aim is to taste benchmark examples of classic grape varietals from Australia and across the globe, as well as test their practical service and, most importantly, their communication skills. Unfortunately, I doubt you would have heard much, if anything, about this incredible course via mainstream media, and that is a terrible shame. Over the next week, I'll be posting daily updates to hopefully give you an insight into this very special course and an appreciation of the level of skill these scholars have.
First, some background. Sommeliers Australia
is a not for profit volunteer organisation whose focus is to support and promote the role of the Sommelier in the hospitality industry. It's an inclusive organisation where all passionate wine folk are encouraged to join whether it be sommelier, waiter, chef, wine maker, importer, distributor ... you get the picture. What this encourages is a broader conversation and open network of wine professionals, who not only taste and learn together, but listen. It's an association in which I can't help be somewhat proud and passionate about, as I've been fortunate enough to witness first hand how much it has grown, developed and expanded over the past few years. The list of accomplishments of the past few years are too many to list at this particular time, but all have been the result of a core group of dedicated volunteers who believe in 'raising the bar'. I say again, with emphasis, 'volunteers who believe in raising the bar'. Did I mention they were volunteers?
Which brings me to the education scholarship. The course has been developed by the Sommeliers Australia Education committee which consists of highly awarded Sommeliers Chris Crawford (Prince Hospitality Group), David Lawler (Rockpool bar & Grill - Melbourne) and then, well, there's me (ahem). But hey, I did all right during my time on the front line!
Drawing inspiration from the Len Evans tutorial
, candidates are put through their paces with a range of themed varietal tastings (8 in total) where they are asked to assess each wine and score according to the 20 point Australian show judging scale. With a minimum of 12 wines per bracket, they are given 40 minutes to draw conclusions as to score, variety, country, region, quality level and more. Once all have called out their scores, two candidates per wine discuss their observations and conclusions to the panel where they are assessed on their presentation. Now in its third year, today saw the beginning of what will again be an incredibly intensive week. This year sees representation from almost all states (minus Tasmania) highlighting the now truly national status of the organisation. It must be said however, and somewhat loudly, that this course would not be possible without the support and shared vision of a select group of industry partners. Their above and beyond financial contribution is incredibly appreciated by not only the Association, but the committee and scholars themselves. Below you will find the list of this year's scholars and their respective supporters. I'm sure you'd agree, a high caliber group indeed.Joshua Andrew Elias
, Attica VIC – Voyager EstateAddy Lam
, Tetsuya's NSW - Yabby LakeMauro Bortolato
, Glass Brasserie NSW – Peter LehmannRamon Arnavas
, Urbane Restaurant QLD – ToolangiAshley Boburka
, Rockpool Bar & Grill – Melbourne VIC – San Pellegrino & Aqua PannaBenjamin Warren
, Mantra SA – De BortoliSarah Ward
, Circa VIC – Wine FusionEmma Plumridge
, Rockpool NSW – Shaw & Smith Leanne Altmann
, Cutler & Co. VIC – Schott Zweisel
& Hotel AgenciesTristian Habeck
, est Restaurant NSW – Australian First Families of WineSam Badger
, Must Wine Bar WA – Torbreck Sonia Bandera
, Donavans VIC – Champagne Duval-Leroy
Being day one, student nerves are obviously highly strung, with all keen to get their eye in, calibrate their palates and gain a better understanding as to what lies ahead. So what better way to start than with Riesling (and a few Pinot Gris/Grigio for good measure). With some brief words of encouragement, the clock started and tasting began. Whilst all candidates were tasting, so were the judges and in this particular case was Chris, David and myself. Throughout the week there will be special guest panelists, but more on that later. This is done to determine an aggregate score for each wine in which to base the student observations.
The wines tasted are listed below, served masked and in order of how they were served.
Joh. Jos. Prüm 'Wehlener Sonnenuhr' Riesling Kabinett, 2007 Mosel, Germany
Frankland Estate Riesling 'Isolation Ridge', 2007 Frankland WA
Christmann Riesling QBA, 2009 Pfalz, Germany
Trimbach Riesling 'Clos St Hune', 2004 Alsace, France
Craggy Range Riesling 'Te Muna', 2006 Marlborough, NZ
Grosset Riesling 'Polish Hill', 2010 Clare Valley, SA
Robert Weil Riesling 'Kiedrich Grafenberg', 2006 Rheingau, Germany
Franz Hirtzberger Riesling 'Steinriegal' Smaragd, 2006 Wachau, Austria
Joh. Jos. Prüm 'Wehlener Sonnenuhr' Riesling Auslese, 2006 Mosel, Germany
Josmeyer Pinot Gris 'Hengst' Grand Cru, 2005 Alsace, France
Ocean Eight Pinot Gris, 2009 Mornington, Vic
Franz Haas Pinot Grigio, 2009 Alto-Adige, Italy
To discuss each individual bracket would be a post in itself so instead, I'll mention a few of the most highly pointed wines in the lineup. As stated earlier, each tasting is a benchmarking exercise where expectations were high. The Grosset Polish Hill, Robert Weil, Joh Jos Prum Auslese were the most highly scored in the Rieslings, whilst the Ocean Eight Gris was the pick of the gris/grigio. Most disappointing however, was the Trimbach Clos St Hune. For a wine of such grand status and pedigree, it lacked freshness, complexity and structure in comparison to the rest and disappointingly so. In fact, it was the second year in a row (though 2003 last year) it failed to impress.Session Two – Shiraz, Grenache and Blends
To kick off the afternoon session, a unique and timely opportunity arose for the scholars to meet, listen and question two awarded (one highly) international sommeliers whom were recipients of the Peter Lehmann Shiraz award in the Best sommelier competitions of Asia Oceanic and Japan. Ian Lim (Best Sommelier Singapore) and Satoru Mori (Japan's Best Sommelier, Best Sommelier Asia-Oceanic), only in Australia for a few days, sat in on the Shiraz Benchmarking session to discuss, chat and share their thoughts, experiences and opinions of not only the wines in front of them, but of their international sommelier competition experience. A rare and special chance for the attending scholars. Peter Lehmann wines is a large support