2025 Halliday Awards judging wrap

By J'aime Cardillo

2 Apr, 2024

This week the Halliday Tasting Team came together to celebrate the very best of Australian wine at the annual Awards judging event. We take you behind the scenes.

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On Monday and Tuesday the Halliday Tasting Team gathered for the first time in 2024. The occasion? The 2025 Halliday Wine Companion Awards judging. 

The 2025 Companion will mark chief editor Campbell Mattinson's second year at the helm. Campbell mirrored James Halliday's sentiment that the Companion is about making the lives of wine drinkers easier. And while you might get into wine on your own, the Companion is with you on your journey. 

The two-day event, held at The Prince in St Kilda, was chaired by Campbell and Jane Faulkner, and watching the duo lead the team is something of a wonder. We welcomed tasters, Marcus Ellis and Toni Paterson MW to their first Wine Companion judging. Along with Jeni Port, Shanteh Wale, Dave Brookes, Philip Rich, and Mike Bennie.

It was a jam-packed two days, with 100 wines recalled for the judging event (out of some 7500 reviewed across the year). There were 14 flights, across 16 categories, and every wine was tasted blind.

The Halliday Tasting TeamThe Halliday Tasting Team (L–R): Jeni Port, Campbell Mattinson, Jane Faulkner, Mike Bennie, Marcus Ellis, Dave Brookes, Toni Paterson MW, Philip Rich, and Shanteh Wale.

The tasters would step out of the room while Chris Ryan, who is the head of sommeliers at Andrew McConnell's Trader House group (Chris was also named Best Sommelier of Australia in 2021), and his team reset the room and poured the next flight.

On day one the tasters judged flights of riesling, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, semillon, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet and blends, other reds and blends, and the other whites and blends.

While the riesling wines were all quality, and all deserving of their spot in the line up, there was a clear winner. Meanwhile eleven shiraz wines became three, before a re-taste (still blind) of the top trio. The cabernets on show were elegant, and a very complex bracket, with eight being narrowed down to three in a final taste-off. "Cabernet sauvignon is so drinkable young," said Jane Faulkner.

Day two kicked off with the chardonnay bracket. The consensus was that of the 11 wines in the chardonnay flight, every wine was worthy; there was finesse, power, and purity. 

A flight of winesThe winning wines from each category being tasted for the 2025 Wine of the Year.

Shanteh Wale likened the chardonnay bracket to diamonds. The clarity was there, across each wine, but it came down to the cut of a diamond that you like. Out of nine tasters, seven marked winning chardonnay as their first preference. Philip Rich said the chardonnay was "the most competitive bracket of wine we’ve had over two days.”

Chardonnay was followed by seven pinot noir wines, which Mike Bennie said represented a lot of diversity. Marcus Ellis highlighted the amount of detail and layering in the wines, with one wine in particular "just growing and growing, something unfurling."

Dave Brookes described the grenache bracket as "...airy, spacious and just captivating." And rounding out the morning flights were the sweet and fortified categories, which were tasted side-by-side but are two different awards. Our resident fortified fanatic, Jeni Port described the wines as "world-class" and "decades and generations in the making." 

The pinot gris/grigio flight was one of the most impressive line ups of Australian gris Toni Paterson MW has seen. It was then time for rosé and sparkling wines.

After each category winner had been decided (and without the Tasting Team knowing the winning wines), the 16 wines were re-poured and re-tasted to crown White Wine of the Year, Red Wine of the Year and, of course, Wine of the Year. But that's all we can say for now! Stay tuned for our shortlist announcement on May 29 before we reveal all the 2025 winners on August 7.

In the meantime, here's a reminder of our 2024 award winners.

Become a member to access our exclusive 2025 Halliday Wine Companion Awards content. Sign up now to be the first to find out the Wine of the Year, the major winners, the wines that take out the top gongs, and the year's most highly rated wines.