Highlife Magazine
The upcoming Australian Small Wine Makers Show in October, is an event held annually in Stanthorpe (first established in 1987), allowing small winemakers throughout Queensland the opportunity to showcase their latest blends and have them judged by a team of accredited wine connoisseurs. Marie Clay, red wine-maker of Treasury Wine Estate’s Wolf Blass, now running in her second year as a panel judge for the show, gives us a glimpse into the judging process and shares how her passion for the wine industry began.

Marie’s gravitation towards a career in wine making was primitive – having grown up in Adelaide, one of the most exclusive wine growing regions throughout Australia and raised by avid wine enthusiasts, wine naturally played a major role in family life across her childhood. “My Dad in particular had quite a parochial collection of South Australian reds, and so as a kid on family holidays me and my sister were always dragged around to cellar doors, and would always be visiting wineries and wanting to taste and see … so it’s always been a part of life,” says Marie. Apart from her surroundings, Marie admits she was always interested in agricultural and environmental sciences at school which is what she felt naturally inclined to pursue in university – seeing her graduate with First Class Honours in Oenology (wine making) in 2000 and been a passionate winemaker at Treasury Wine Estates ever since.

Having judged at regional wine shows over the past 11 years, Marie says she’s particularly fond of the Small Wine Makers Show for giving recognition to the smaller wineries throughout Australia and having the ability to explore a variety of wines outside of the larger company wines she is exposed to. “Being involved shows me that other side of what the Australian wine industry is doing – which are some really exciting things with wines and wine styles. I find it really helpful for my own winemaking and palette development judging with other winemakers who I don’t work with as closely … everyone has a different perspective on wines which opens up your understanding.”

Highlife Magazine

Marie explains the process of judging wine is about putting personal preferences aside and being able to recognise and reward good examples across a range of different wine styles from an impartial viewpoint. “We all have our own personal preferences on what we like to drink and but a good judge can acknowledge good examples across a variety of styles … I might love Chardonnay that has an oakey-ness and quite a lot of complexity, but I can still award a chardonnay which is unoaked and very frutescent. How it smells, its complexity on the nose and the palate, the texture, balance, varietal expression and the colour are all really important.”

The winners from the show will be presented at the Gala Presentation Dinner, held on Wednesday, October 21, treating guests to a three course meal matched to a selection of premium 2015 Australian Small Winemakers Show wines. For more information and tickets on the event see here.

Words by Sophie Lucas | Images supplied by Wolf Blass