HE almost swooned when the waft from a 10-year-old tokay hit him in the face.
Renowned food lover and ABC radio presenter Simon Marnie had travelled from Sydney especially to visit Rutherglen’s Morris Wines.
The winery is in the final six of a field of 5500 for the prize of Australia’s finest producer.
Marnie was taken aback by the aroma from a large concrete vat — it just smelt so good.
As incongruous as it might sound when judging a winery, the taste test had to miss out.
Marnie said flavour was simply too subjective a quality.
He and fellow judge Stewart Webster, from NSW Trade and Investment, spent several hours at the winery yesterday morning to help make their decision on who should win the President’s Medal.
Awarded by the Royal Agricultural Society of Australia, the competition judges producers from the wine, dairy and fine food industries.
With flavour out the window, the judges instead rate each finalist in the categories of financial, social (looking into their role in the community, which “Morris does well”) and craft, skills and passion.
“We’ve been really impressed,” Marnie said.
“They’re a really good family-run business — even though they’re owned by a large entity — that has retained the right artisanal links as well as adopting modern ones.”
Marnie said what really stood out was Morris’ retention of historical processes.
“They’re using muscat blends that go back to 1928, and even older — there’s a real respect for history and those traditional methods,” he said.
“But they’re applying them in contemporary society using the basketpress, using the concrete vats to ferment.”
Morrises could modernise, he said, “but at the end of the day would they have a product that was better than what they’re doing now?”
“And they’ve got a really good approach to sustainability so they’re not lagging behind in those areas, which sometimes some of the more traditional agricultural producers do,” he said.
Chief winemaker David Morris said they were thrilled to welcome the judges.
“With five generations of winemaking experience under our belt, we take great pride in our ability to combine our rich heritage with contemporary winemaking techniques,” he said.
“We’re confident that the society judges will see that here at Morris Wines we have all the practices in place to ensure we continue to produce not only sustainable, but consistently high quality wines for generations to come.”
The winner will be announced at Sydney Showgrounds on August 21.