The increase in entries – about 300 more than the average in recent years – came despite the impact on the industry of fires, drought, and COVID-19.
Committee Chair Greg Follett said the surge in entries came as a surprise to event organisers.
“Back in April it looked like (the Royal Adelaide Wine Show) wasn’t going to go ahead,” Follett said.
“We then budgeted on only getting around 60 per cent of entries (compared to previous years), partly because of COVID-19, but also because of it being a pretty poor vintage with fires and drought.
“Then as we got closer we thought we might get close to 2500, and then in the last couple of days the entries took off.”
Follett said the increased number of entries from the 400 producers represented this year were possibly the result of two factors. One was the change in the entry requirements stipulating that producers must have at least 100 dozen bottles of their entry in stock, down from the 250 dozen previously required, which opened the show up to more small batch and experimental winemakers.
The other factor was that most other major capital city shows, such as those in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, were cancelled this year.
“So we became the national show for the year,” said Follett.
The increase in entries, and new precautions imposed to keep judges and staff safe from COVID-19, presented unique challenges.
A fifth day of judging was added so that the 30 judges across six panels could manage the increased volume, with each judge sampling about 120 wines a day for four days to determine the gold, silver and bronze medal winners.
The gold medallists in each class were then re-judged on the fifth day to determine the trophy winners in each class.
To minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission, stewards and anyone handling wine wore masks and gloves, and a new machine was installed to dry the more than 5000 glasses washed each day so that they did not have to be dried by hand.
Organisers also utilised the expansive pavilions at the Adelaide Showgrounds to space judges further apart, and thorough wash-downs were performed between the judging of each class and at the end of the day.
The make-up of the panels was also different this year given interstate and international judges were not able to attend.
“This year every judge was South Australian based,” Follett said.
“Fortunately, we have got a pretty diverse industry here so we were able to get the judges… and a lot of those judges were planning to judge interstate shows (that were cancelled), so they were happy to come and fill in for us.”
Despite the public tasting day not being able to take place, Follett said it was important for producers and the industry as a whole that this year’s Royal Adelaide Wine Show go ahead.
“If you win a medal at Adelaide, that’s something you can market really well, and people know it’s up there in the best couple of wine shows in the country, so it’s got a lot of gravitas,” said Follett.
“It’s benchmarking your wines as well, it’s an opportunity to see how you’re travelling against the opposition.
“It’s no different to showing cattle, or putting your cake in a competition – it’s about bettering the breed or lifting the standard.”
Follett said wine shows also help to shape styles of wine in Australia.
“What was being awarded 15 years ago in a wine show probably isn’t being awarded so much now,” he said.
“Some of the bigger, bolder, more heavily oaked styles of yesteryear are a little bit more out of vogue, and there’s a lot of new varieties coming on stream which are interesting.”
InDaily sponsors the Best Australian Vintage, Tawny or Ruby award at the show and will publish the full list of Royal Adelaide Wine Show medal and trophy winners will tomorrow.
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