30, October 2023
Sean Ou, 2023 International Judge
We were delighted to welcome Sean Ou as the International Judge at this year's McLaren Vale Wine Show.
Sean served the highly acclaimed Singapore Airlines as a Sommelier and Trainer for 11 years before clipping his wings. His long aspiration to become a Master of Wine has led him down the path of achieving the elusive WSET Level 4 Diploma. In addition to being a Wine Communicator, his repertoire also extends to being a Sake Specialist and Spirits Evangelist, partaking in international judging duties. His past professional experience also spans across serving as Head of Wine for Southeast Asia under the Sarment Group and currently he sits as the Head of Education for the Beverage Clique Academy.
As well as providing an international perspective to the judging panel, Sean was also responsible for awarding the International Judge's Trophy. Sean was delighted to see that a mediterranean variety can shine outside of it’s non-traditional home, so he selected the Chalk Hill Wines 2022 Small Batch Release Nero d'Avola as the recipient of the 2023 International Judge's Trophy.
We caught up with Sean to hear this thoughts on his time as the McLaren Vale Wine Show International Judge for 2023:
What are your thoughts on the wines that you have tasted throughout your time judging the McLaren Vale Wine Show?
"It’s a rather humbling experience to judge the best of what Mclaren Vale has to offer, and quite frankly, it did not disappoint. There were lots of undiscovered gems. Aside from the traditional styles most known to the international market, I realised that there was a shift in style towards a more lean, fresh and focus on the purity of fruit, rather than the reliance of oak, which was a pleasant observation."
Were you surprised or intrigued by any class of wine in particular?
"Yes, indeed! Grenache has always been a special calling card for Mclaren Vale (and that’s also what I tend to advocate back home). However, it came at a surprise that Mediterranean varieties such as Fiano, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola, etc. have been doing exceptionally well and seemed to have found it’s footing in Mclaren Vale. It almost reminds me of how NZ Sauvignon Blanc broke out into the wine scene that offered a fresh take on what most people back then thought of French Sauvignon Blanc."
Tell us about the wine that you selected to receive the International Judge's Trophy?
"I eventually gave that title to a Nero d’Avola which I felt was exceptional and exemplified how a mediterranean variety can shine outside of it’s non-traditional home. Mclaren Vale’s natural terroir combined with skilful winemaking might just be the key to unlocking something truly special. This wine has an exceptional bouquet of aromatics that was alluring. This was supported by good concentration of fruit that had focus and precision. And I believe my fellow judges agreed during our panel discussion. A deserving gold."
Overall what are the thoughts on your time in McLaren Vale wine region?
"A valuable and unique experience as compared to other international wine competitions. Moreover, the camaraderie amongst the winemaking community of Mclaren Vale was really inspiring."
~ Sean Ou, The Beverage Clique