Earlier this week, the Halliday Tasting Team came together at All Saints Estate in Victoria's Rutherglen for three days of judging for the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion Awards. This marked the first year with Campbell Mattinson as chief editor, and new recruits Mike Bennie and Shanteh Wale, who joined James Halliday, Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, Jeni Port and Philip Rich.
Be sure to mark August 2, 2023 in your diaries, which is when we'll announce the major winners and top-rated wines. But until then, we asked the formidable Tasting Team to tell us what excited or inspired them at this year's judging.
The Halliday Tasting Team: Philip Rich, Dave Brookes, Shanteh Wale, Mike Bennie, Jeni Port, James Halliday, Jane Faulkner and Campbell Mattinson.
Campbell Mattinson"What’s excited me most about this judging is that grenache is an absolute superstar in this country, as is chardonnay, as are cabernet and blends. But what really blew me away was the alternative whites…there’s so much that's so interesting about the whites, other than chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, which we also do fabulously – but alternative whites."
Dave Brookes"The quality of the wines has been absolutely amazing, and the discussion around the wines with the Tasting Team has been really robust. The difference of opinion and people coming to a consensus about the wines has been really refreshing and fascinating. The cabernet class was really strong, and the rieslings were fantastic, but the standout class for me was probably shiraz."
James Halliday"I think the way we’ve come together as judges, respecting where there have been differences of opinion, has been friendly. Bouncing ideas and comments off each other in a process where there’s no standout person – we are a group and it’s the group that gives us the strength and ability to deal with many situations that wine can throw at you."
Jane Faulkner"There are so many things that have excited me about this year’s judging – apart from the extraordinary array of wines and particularly the grenache – I’m just blown over. But most of all, it’s coming together with such a great panel to listen to their ideas, questions, taste their wines and be thoughtful about it. To then come to a final result that says ‘this is the wine.’ It’s been so fabulous, I’ve had the best time."
Jeni Port"I love judging with people. Too much of our time is spent in an office with a computer and a glass of wine – there’s no one to bounce off, talk about it with, show the wine to, or have a debate about it, get angry, have a fight or get agreement. That’s what we have here and I really like that."
Mike Bennie"I think thing that’s excited me most about this year’s judging has been the real collegiate atmosphere that has existed between the panel. I think I thought there would be a need to defend turf – but for me the results are speaking of a collective mindset that’s found best wines through collegiate approaches to tasting the wines. And I think what’s thrilled me about that is tasting some of the great wines of Australia. It’s been such a pleasure to taste great wine and not have to wave through wines that perhaps don’t sit in this echelon. I find that really thrilling, and we’ve done it with such great camaraderie."
Philip Rich"The two things that have excited me about this year's judging – having some new blood in the room, new voices (whether you agree with them or not!). I love that and the discussion. And I just can't wait to find out what those top wines are. I said it before and I'll say it again – grenache was a showstopper."