In the most intense months of tasting for the Companion, we'll hear from our reviewers on what sipping all those samples is really like. To kick things off, Jane Faulkner shares her diary entries made over a week of tasting.
Monday, January 1
Most normal folk are sleeping in, maybe nursing a hangover (no sympathy), or enjoying a peaceful day off, given it’s a public holiday. My day begins with 30 wines on the dining room table – and I haven’t even had breakfast.
It wasn’t a quiet start either, thanks to the garbo truck waking me up at 5.30am. It’s my recycling bin chock-full of empties – not remnants of the night before (I was in bed by 9pm), but of the past few days sampling for the impending Halliday Wine Companion guide.
By day’s end, and still in PJs, 76 samples are done. Before bed, I set up the next day’s tastings so there’s less faffing about in the morning.
Tuesday, January 2
8am start. A diverse selection from a producer with a dodgy name really delight. While I love blind tasting, the sheer number of samples in a short timeframe makes it almost impossible. I do that when my best friend’s son helps out a morning or two a week. Oliver is (desperately) needed for unpacking, stacking boxes for reuse/recycling and placing bottles in the queue of my tasting production line.
Today, the hallway, lounge and porch resemble a cross between a warehouse and a recycling depot. Oliver’s not here this week.
I manage 94 wines. Feeling good. Set up for tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 3
Tough day. I’ve struck indiscernible dry reds. Duds are filtered out and won’t make the guide. To lift my spirits, I head for spirits – as in fortifieds. A swathe of Rutherglen muscat brings joy. And one from the oldest solera… I drink it after writing up the tasting note and it’s glorious (last of the day, thank you). 67 done.
Thursday, January 4
I start at 6.30am, as I forgot to put glasses out last night – I only had the one fortified too. By 11am, couriers and my trusty Aussie Post guy have delivered half a bottle shop, a backlog despite the submission deadline of December 31. I leave the boxes where they are, as I am relishing rieslings from dry to off-dry and aged releases.
I sample 43 wonderful wines from producers in Margaret River, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley.
Glasses ready for tomorrow – it’s feeling a bit like Ground Hog Day.
Friday, January 5
The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts 40-plus tomorrow, so I’m up with the sparrows making sure no wine is exposed to the heat. It takes all morning and two lattes to unpack 30 boxes. I’m in uniform today – black T-shirt and black cotton pants – as being in my PJs with all of the delivery people could be embarrassing (for them).
A special parcel arrives – portable glass racks. Excited. I don’t have a dishwasher and I’m fed up with washing and drying my Riedels several times a day.
37 wines tasted. 37 glasses washed and left to dry.
Saturday, January 6
A scorcher. Despite staying indoors with air-conditioning, I’m listless. I tidy my notes, which is something I do each morning before filing. I taste whites and rosés, only 20.
Rest of the day off. The mercury hits 42. Beer.
Sunday, January 7
A sleep in is not an option. There are 50-plus boxes stacked in the lounge; well, what was a space for lounging. Here I go: Pour. Taste. Write. Wash glasses. Leave to dry. Repeat.
Next article: The less-known varietals and styles to watch.