From the tasting team

Watch now: Chief Editor Tyson Stelzer on the Halliday rating system

By The Tasting Team

24 Aug, 2021

Chief editor Tyson Stelzer answers your questions from the 2022 Halliday Awards.

Halliday Wine Companion chief editor Tyson Stelzer hosted a one-hour webinar with wineries to discuss the evolution in wine scores and star ratings in 2021.

This session received a fantastic response, with some 36 questions addressed, and many people unable to attend on the day have requested the recording. We are pleased to share this with you here.

Questions asked during the webinar include:

• How do wine scores this year compare with the past?

• How do you ensure consistent scoring across the tasting panel?

• Why are the winners not always the highest scoring wines in the varietal categories?

• Is price a consideration in scoring?

• How does the new system of star ratings work?

• Does submitting low-scoring wines affect my star rating?

• What effect does non-submission have on my star rating, red stars and red name?

• What effect does submitting only one wine have on my star rating?

• Are red stars based on the average star rating or single year star ratings?

• Can I resubmit wines to be retasted?

• Can I request reviews to be removed from the web site?

• How do you overcome bias?

• In future, will you specifically request background info on each wine, so all producers' submissions are made on the same footing (provision of info)?

• What is your plan for communicating these changes to your readers and the wine public in general?

• Can we dispute a drop in our red 5 star rating this year? We didn’t submit the same wines which have scored 95+ this year so feel our star rating has dropped unfairly.

• Why only use 3 years for the average winery star rating and not more?

• Does the averaging system for star ratings take into account the number of wines submitted each year?

• What options are available to us to contest reviews from our regional reviewer?

Tyson Stelzer and James HallidayTyson Stelzer and James Halliday

The following questions were addressed during the session via text:

• Do wines sent to James Halliday as part of the Top100 or Weekend Australian magazine receive Companion points? If wines are sent to the Top100 tasting and not included in the final 100 wines, are the wines rated and reviewed or not? And subsequently, should these wines be 're-submitted' to our regional reviewer?

In short, yes, those wineries invited to submit to James’ Top 100 should also submit to their Companion regional taster. The Companion will always publish James’ Top 100. And James, as taster at large, can also choose to submit any of his other reviews from that tasting, to the Companion. But for your best chance of inclusion in the Companion, you must send your wine to your regional taster.

• Are all wines tasted blind?

No, the Companion does not taste blind.

• How many top red star wineries are there?

In the 2022 Companion this year, there are 207 five-red-star wineries with their name in red, acknowledging five-star status for 10 years.

• In future, will you specifically request background info on each wine? James has, in the past, but I didn't see that request this time round?

We always request viti/vini information for each wine, but for the 2022 Companion we didn’t provide a specific form for that. In response to feedback from some wineries, we’ve added a downloadable checklist to the website for those who want it.

• For a winery that has been awarded a red name winery, this is displayed in the book as a red name but online there is no red name (note the score description online states red name). Is there a plan to change this for consistency?

On the website, those wineries are denoted by an underline of the 5 red stars and we have amended the star rating description accordingly. There is a plan to standardise this across print and online.

• Sometimes we find that two vintages of the same wine are printed in the one edition. Then won’t be rated the following year. Can we request which vintages are shown in the book?

We ask that just the one/current vintage per wine is submitted per year to the Companion, but sometimes a winery will submit two and (despite our best efforts!) they both slip through. The best way to ensure just the one vintage is reviewed each year is to just submit the one vintage per year.

• When can we start submitting wines for review outside of the Wine Companion (book)?

We are now tasting wines and publishing reviews online year-round and invite you to send your next vintages to your regional taster as soon as you are ready. There will be an annual deadline for inclusion in the printed book, which will be communicated in due course.

• Will the regional specialists remain the same for the future or will they change?

We hope the regional specialists will remain in place. We’ve had to do some reshuffling this year, with Tony Love moving on and two new tasters coming on board (Dave Brookes and Philip Rich) but our goal is definitely long-term consistency ahead.

For more from the Halliday tasting team, click here.