Andrew Thomas, 2023 Chair of Judges
Andrew Thomas, son of legendary Bushing Monarch Wayne Thomas, was always destined to work in wine. During his formative winemaking years (and despite being groomed for a possible winemaking career in South Australia) he developed a deep passion for finesse, and the more subtle and savoury structured wines of the Hunter Valley. Andrew began his winemaking journey at Tyrrell’s Vineyards under the guidance of Murray Tyrrell. Overseas vintage stints included Sonoma, Tuscany, Piedmont and Provence. Thomas Wines was established in 1997 with a with a clear and focused objective to specialise in single vineyard Hunter Valley semillon and shiraz. Since then, Andrew has been Awarded Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year in 2008 and 2014, with his wines winning numerous awards and trophies over the years.
As well as providing a wealth of wine knowledge to the judging panels, Andrew was responsible for awarding the Chairperson’s Trophy. Andrew selected Big Easy Radio's 2020 Forget Babylon Malbec as the recipient of the 2023 Chairperson’s Trophy.
We caught up with Andrew to hear his thoughts on the wines in the 2023 McLaren Vale Show and more on the wine that he chose to receive the Chairperson's Trophy.
What are your thoughts overall on the wines in the 2023 McLaren Vale Wine Show?
"The judging of the 2023 McLaren Vale wine show has clearly demonstrated that the regions viticulturalists and winemakers continue to strive for excellence.
As expected, red wines dominated the entries with the traditional regional varieties of Shiraz and Grenache certainly impressing the judges. However also on show was the continued regional momentum with the newer/emerging varieties and blends, and some absolutely compelling wines were found in these classes, particularly from the outstanding 2021 and 2022 vintages."
Were you surprised/intrigued by any class of wine in particular?
"Whilst McLaren Vale is internationally recognised for the quality of its red wines, it is pleasing to see some focus on the white wines of the region both in the vineyard and the winery. Fiano continues to lead the way for white varietals, but we also saw some outstanding examples of Picpoul, Vermentino, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Gris. The cooler 2023 vintage has certainly contributed to a wonderful line of natural acidity in some of these wines."
Tell us about the wine that you selected to receive the Chairperson’s Trophy?
"The Big Easy Radio 2020 Malbec caught my eye as a great example of a wine that can sometimes ‘fly under the radar’ of wine show judges… Vibrant, dark fruit aromas yet a palate that impressed with its finely grained ‘dusty’ tannins and a wonderfully savoury texture. Malbec is not often bottled as a straight varietal in Australia, but this wine certainly provides excellent current drinkability as well as some mid-term cellaring potential."
Please tell us about the Best Wine of Show, what was stand out about this wine etc.
"McLaren Vale winemakers are mastering the art of varietal blending, as witnessed by the number of entries and the quality of the blend classes. The 2022 Chalk Hill Tempranillo Grenache ultimately rose to the top as a seamless example of vibrant fleshy fruit overlayed with a floral delicacy and poise. It’s bright line of acidity and detailed tannin structure the icing on the cake."
~ Andrew Thomas, Chair of Judges, 2023 McLaren Vale Wine Show