From the tasting team

Tyson Stelzer: a new chapter for the Halliday Wine Companion Awards

By Tyson Stelzer

Wine Companion chief editor Tyson Stelzer discusses the first-ever panel judging of the awards, and how it led to several new honours to look out for this August.

Anointing just one Wine of the Year from 9129 wines tasted for the Halliday Wine Companion 2022 was no trivial task, and this year we doubly compounded the challenge. For the first time in 35 years, the awards judging was conducted by the full tasting team.

At the conclusion of this year’s tastings, the panel assembled on the Mornington Peninsula in late March, fortuitously dodging border closures. After a year defined by Covid-induced isolation, this proved to be the first time the team had connected in person.

The seven members of the Halliday Wine Companion tasting teamThe tasting team: Erin Larkin, James Halliday, Jane Faulkner, Ned Goodwin MW, Tony Love, Jeni Port, Tyson Stelzer.

In the ultimate ‘grand finale’ tasting, each of the seven tasters was invited to nominate their top wine in 17 categories, from sparkling to fortified and every key variety in between. The anticipation was palpable, with every standout wine of every style from each taster to be tasted, rigorously discussed and votes cast.

This process not only facilitated a truly collaborative and ecumenical result, but also the ultimate context for the team to calibrate and benchmark at the top end. True to the history and spirit of the Companion, wines were not judged blind, but considered in the framework of their region, variety, vintage, history and pedigree, with complete viticultural and vinification background provided.

Each taster brought their own unique approach, tastes and preferences to the judging table, while championing their regions, thus creating a powerful dynamic in which we carefully scrutinised and debated every contender to elevate the finest as the winner of each category.

These were then in the running for Wine of the Year. Lining up 17 winners (19, in fact, with three winners of one particularly outstanding category inseparable, even on a second vote) in one taste-off to single out the winner would have proven insurmountable. The decision was thus made to first vote on our top sparkling, white and red wine. And so were born the inaugural Halliday Sparkling Wine of the Year, White Wine of the Year and Red Wine of the Year. There’s something compelling about new awards evolving organically rather than being fabricated or contrived.

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And so were born the inaugural Halliday Sparkling Wine of the Year, White Wine of the Year and Red Wine of the Year.

The opportunity to bring the tasting team together for the awards judging represented a milestone in the evolving story and future of the Companion. James Halliday, who enjoyed the collaborative tastings, later congratulated us all on ‘that most difficult challenge to steer the ship that might have ended up sideways in the Suez Canal’.

The results speak for themselves, and we are united in our pride to present the longest list of winners ever featured in the Wine Companion guide, with the shortlisted producers arising from these tastings.

All will be revealed at the Halliday Wine Companion Awards on Thursday, August 12.

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