Hunter Valley Wine Show celebrates 50 years

August 1, 2022
By Ioni Doherty

As Australia’s oldest continuous wine region, it is no surprise that the Hunter Valley Wine Show was the nation’s first regional wine show. As judging commences next month, the show will commemorate its 50th milestone with a week of celebrations, reflecting on the region and the event’s rich history.

The Hunter River Vineyard Association was the first of its kind, formed in 1847 with a mission to foster a spirit of openness, collaborative self-education, disciplined experimentation, and industry organisation. It set a precedent for subsequent Australian wine associations, which continue today to influence the production and commerce of Australian wine.

The Association held their first judging in 1847, with the show running continuously in its current format since 1973, recognising and celebrating excellence in Hunter Valley winemaking.

Over the past 50 years, the show has received over 33,000 entries and awarded over 1,900 gold medals. The show’s evolution has led to a series of innovations. The show was the first in Australia to implement a revolutionary digital scoring system in 2016 and the first regional show to use Riedel glassware in 2006.

Renowned wine writer, critic, winemaker, and senior wine competition judge, James Halliday AM, was a judge at the show for ten years. He reflects on the evolution of the show.

“Wine shows have directly contributed to the quality of Australian wines now found on the international stage. The Hunter Valley Wine Show is particularly significant as part of the NSW wine industry and noting the importance of the Sydney market,” said Halliday.

“I strongly support what regional wine shows offer to the Australian wine industry, providing the market and consumers alike with access to expert judging on the quality of our wines.”

From the myriad of expert judges, including the introduction of an international judge in 2006, to the long-time serving Australian Defence Force members assisting in the event’s operations, the show has created a dedicated community with a shared passion for excellence in wine.

Current President of the Hunter Valley Wine Show Executive Committee Craig Saywell says he is proud to lead the community volunteers committee and work closely with the Singleton Army Barracks. They have supported the show since 1980, representing over 40 years of community collaboration.

“We are delighted to have former Commandant of the Singleton Army Base and Freeman of the Shire of Singleton, General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove (Retd) and Lady Lynne Cosgrove join us for this year’s 50th-year celebrations,” Saywell said.

Former Wine Show Committee Member and Author of From Tendrils to Trophies, the Origin of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, John Flannery notes that it has been his long-term aspiration to ensure the origins and evolution of the show have been recorded for future generations. 

“The success of the show has only been possible because the Hunter Valley wine industry, past and present, has nurtured the idea of a wine competition which now plays such an important role in recognising the quality and talent within the Hunter Valley wine industry,” said Flannery

This year’s judging panel is chaired by highly experienced and respected winemaker and sommelier Samantha Connew, owner of Stargazer wines in Tasmania. Samantha carved out her reputable career as a senior winemaker at many wineries worldwide, including Wirra Wirra (McLaren Vale) and Tower Estate (Hunter Valley), as well as managing applied research projects for the Australian Wine Research Institute.

Joining her to judge at the 50th show is a panel of diverse, highly accredited sommeliers and winemakers, a mix of local, outer state and international experts.

Judging of the show will commence Monday, 15 August, before medal and trophy winners are announced at the 50th Celebration Luncheon on Friday at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

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