Undertaking her first judging assignment in Australia, wine journalist Elaine Chukan Brown, enjoyed the experience immensely as it came with a long list of firsts including using wine glasses polished by soldiers.
Elaine who is based in Sonoma, California, has her own website, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, and is the American specialist for JancisRobinson.com.
Being selected as the international judge for the annual Hunter Valley Wine Show meant Elaine could visit this region for the first time and taste some of our renowned semillons.
The wine show, one of the oldest in the country, has held its judging for many years at the Singleton School of Infantry, and this location provided Elaine with a chance to not only meet our serving military but taste some of the youngest semillons in her wine career.
“On day one we judged the Hunter’s 2017 semillons – this was really educational as I have never tasted semillons that young before,” she said.
“But there were some really good examples at the wine show.”
For Elaine her life as a wine journalist came after a career as an academic and she described her writing now, as being heavily influenced by her previous academic studies.
Growing up in Alaska pursuing a career in the wine industry was never on her agenda in fact Elaine said the only wine ever consumed was a plum wine that her mother ordered when the family made a regular monthly visit to a local Chinese restaurant.
Her family were and still are commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay – perhaps that is why she is keen on semillon – a nice wine with fish.
But her true love is champagne due to its great acid, flesh and textures.
“Champagne with age develops complexities but still retain a freshness,” she said.
Before a life involving wine, Elaine was a philosophy professor at Northern Arizona University. She was Dartmouth College's Charles A. Eastman Fellow, and a Tomlinson Fellow at McGill University, where she did her doctoral work.
When she returned to teaching at Northern Arizona wine became one of her hobbies – she wanted to know where it came from, how it was produced in fact all the ins and outs of a wine’s life.
“I took an academic approach to enjoying wine with food and that led to my writing about wine and eventually running seminars on wine regions that provided people with an understanding and knowledge of those regions particular wines,” she said.
Elaine is enjoying her third career, as she describes life as a wine journalist, and recently she has turned her hand to wine illustration. She says wine illustration involves a fun and approachable way to understand wines and educate the public.
Put simply it involves drawing or illustrating tasting notes.
“I like to think I was pioneer in wine illustration and it is a great way to show people what a wine is all about – its flavours its strengths what ever you want to say but in this case with a series of drawings,” said Elaine.