Before getting into more of the benefits of this wonderful program, one must first understand how this competition came to be. Back in 2003, the first ever Tri Nation Wine Challenge took place in Sydney, Australia. Being that the competition focused only on up and coming wine countries in the Southern hemisphere, it was appropriate for the event to take place in Australia since the country had already began to emerge as a wine producing destination with highly-rated brands including: Penfolds, Mollydooker Two Hands Wines and Schild Estate. The competition was originally called the "Tri Nation Wine Challenge," because only three countries were asked to participate: Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It wasn't until 2011 when Argentina and Chile were asked to join the competition.
All 5 countries are asked to contribute 100 wines that are then selected by a judge from each country. While the lineup can change, these are the main varietals that will be judged:
- Aromatic varietal (Riesling or Gewurztraminer)
- Sauvigon Blanc/ white blends
- Unique whites
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Bordeaux Blends
- Unique Reds
- Red blends
- Dessert wine
Five judges from each country sit on the panel personally choose wines from their own country to taste. Then the judges choose his top six wines from each varietal. In the end the points are added up to determine the top country as well as top varietals. In the 2009 and 2010 challenge, New Zealand came out on top. Today, New Zealand is one of the biggest Sauvignon Blanc producers in the world. This incredible challenge was one factor that brought this booming wine country in line with the big boys.
Another unique way that the Tri Nations Wine Challenge enables other countries to illustrate their talents is through the overwhelming amount of creativity and individualism that each producer brings to the tasting table. Before Australia, New Zealand and the many other places that participate there was France. The country dominated the wine market, mainly because no other country was producing as much wine and France was the first ever area to create an AOC, building a container that could enforce wine making practices on vintners. In the end, France became the King of wine and every country followed suit, at times trying to replicate France's viticulture and varietal style methods. However, what ended up happening was something much more beautiful, diversity of style and discovery of more grape varietals. At the wine challenge, wine is not judged on what the varietals traditionally should taste, smell and look like, but more on the viticulture techniques, longevity and the way the wine best illustrates its own terroir.
Furthermore, the event also puts up and coming wine countries at a level where they have "already made it." The only way a country is allowed to participate in the competition is through invitation only. This invitation symbolizes that the judges already recognize say Argentina as a well-respected area of wine production and that its efforts should not only be rewarded but also challenged. In this type of competition, it truly makes every producer want to be on its game and possibly come to Sydney with a desire to do better than the years past. It's almost like sports. A player can only know its strengths by competing with stronger competitors. Back in 2011, Argentina and Chile got the chance to do just that.
It is an overwhelming positive to have a wine challenge such as this around that keeps the technique of making wine fresh and vibrant. Not to mention it's ability to continue to illustrate new world wines achievements.