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Friday 15 July 2016

One of Australia's key wine tastings - but you'll never know the results

It is one of the most important annual wine tastings in Australia - but the results are never published. 

Over 1400 wines were tasted this week by an eminent panel whose decision can bring an instant boost to the bottom line of small wineries across the country. 

"Just a few more whites to taste and then we can join you for a chat," says chief judge Sebastian Crowther, a Master Sommelier and chief judge at the annual Qantas Rockpool Sommeliers tasting. 

Crowther MS is the chief sommelier at Eleven Bridge (formerly known as Rockpool) and leads a group tasters employed by under chef Neil Perry's Rockpool Group.

The sommeliers taste wines for use in first class, business class, economy class and for the Qantas Club and other lounges. 

Some wineries may offer as little as a half pallet to Qantas (enough, maybe, for two or three weeks on one route), others may offer huge volumes. Only Australian table wines are chosen, with Champagne for business and first class cabins. 

"We'd love to also use some sparkling wines from Tasmania, but they simply are not available in big enough quantities," says Perry, who has 16 sommeliers from his restaurants around the country on call for the panel. 

The sommeliers met this week at the Qantas Centre of Service Excellence to choose not only the wines to be served over the next 12 months, but also to provide tasting notes. 

"We look for wines that will present well under flying conditions," says Crowther, one of only two Master Sommeliers working in Australia. 

Qantas is the third-largest purchaser of wine in Australia, behind only Woolworths and Coles, spending over $15 million annually.

Australia's national airline serves around two million bottles a year and over 300 Qantas cabin crew have passed through a Sommeliers in the Sky program - aimed at enhancing the wining and dining pleasure of flyers. 

A further 2000 cabin crew have undergone training with members of the Rockpool panel.

The tasting in conducted just like a wine show, with the judges tasting a number of small style brackets and is part of an arrangement between Perry and Qantas that will next year mark its 20th anniversary. 

"While we are happy to showcase Australian wineries both large and small, all the wines that are chosen have to have a real degree of deliciousness," says Perry.

So while you'll never know the results of these tastings - other than the fact flyers love shiraz more than any other variety - you may well end up drinking one of the trophy winners.



  1. So where do I send my wine for evaluation or is it like many other things in Australia a closed shop ??

    1. You just contact Qantas to enter your wines; minimum of half a palate.

  2. Ah, what a delicious job you dedicated to your fans and folks particularly to the wine fanatics. When I find me into a wine story I feel the fantastic aroma, lovely color, flavors and appealing taste. Really glad to know about the Australian Annual Wine Tastings. 1400 wines in a week. Had I been there. Also excited to see the two sommeliers are tasting wines for use in first class, business class, economy class and for the Qantas Club and other lounges. This was absolutely an amazing experience. Sometimes, I think what if I try to work as a sommelier in a restaurant or hotel. By the way what is the best way of being a sommelier without any certificate?