Len Evans Tutorial: Top of the Wine Class
It’s considered the most exclusive wine school in the world and in 2019, the Len Evans Tutorial saw one of Wine Selectors’ own named as top of the wine class.
When the late Len Evans AO OBE was 71, he found himself with time to spare, so decided to bring a project to life. As Evans explained, “The idea was to seek out, each year, 12 gifted palates who could be further trained as show judges. There was to be no distinction between gender, no limit to age as long as trainees would have a useful show life ahead of them, no allocation to states and no preference given to candidates of the sponsors.”
In 2001, thanks to the generosity of 12 said sponsors, this idea became the Len Evans Tutorial, and there’s been one held every year since.
That Evans should have devised this concept comes as no surprise when you consider his life’s work. As Keith Tulloch wrote in tribute to him following his death in 2006, “Evans’ career progressed from wine buyer to wine cellar manager, wine journalist, restaurateur, wine judge, wine promoter and vineyard owner.” However, Tulloch continues, “His most natural skill was as an educator” who aimed to teach the market to appreciate wine as he did.
And the best way to appreciate wine, according to Evans, was as a wine show judge. To this end, between 1963 until his retirement in 2002, Evans served as Chairman of more than 50 shows and as judge in more than 80 others.
Evans was a tutor at the first five tutorials, joined by James Halliday, Ian McKenzie and Iain Riggs, who still tutor today.
a once-in-a-lifetime experience
A long-time follower of what is now considered the world’s most exclusive wine school has been Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist Adam Walls and in 2019 he gained a place.
“You hear from all the ex-scholars about how amazing the week is. The quality, the age, the rarity and the expense of the wines. You’ll never ever in a week do anything like it again.”
The week starts with a tasting in the morning of 30 of the world’s greatest Chardonnays from up to five different countries. The next three mornings follow the same format, covering Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet/Cabernet blends. Each scholar gives a score for every wine, following the Australian wine show judging system, with their points compared to those of the tutors.
The afternoons are spent in masterclasses, taught by specialist tutors and focussing on red and white Burgundy, Bordeaux, Riesling and Champagne. Then at dinner, they blind taste five or more brackets of wines dating back over 40 years, with the scholars challenged to identify each wine.
Finally, on the Friday morning, the quality of the wines reaches its peak with a focus on six red Burgundies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Again, the scholars are asked to pinpoint the vintage and vineyard for each wine.
Top of the class goes to...
Pictured above: The 2019 Len Evans Tutorial Scholars with their tutors, including James Halliday (seated third from right), Ian McKenzie (seated second from right) and Chair of Trustees Iain Riggs (standing far right).
For Adam, this incredible opportunity was the final piece in the puzzle after years of accumulated theory. “You spend weekends reading about these wines you never get to taste,” he explains. “For example, I read for months about the 1855 classification of Bordeaux and then in the Bordeaux masterclass, we got to taste four of the five First Growths from the same vintage.”
With the week spent being assessed, each scholar’s scores are totalled and a Dux is named. And for 2019, the recipient of the Basil Sellers prize for Dux was Adam Walls!
But for Adam, he describes, “The Dux comes second to the fact that I actually got a chance to go and experience the week. You don’t win or lose at the Tutorial, you win because you made it there. It’s like a reward for all your hard work.”
A fine achievement for Adam, nonetheless, and apt recognition of a dedicated palate!