Toni Paterson MW

  • Toni Paterson is a highly experienced wine professional with over twenty years’ experience. With training in science and winemaking, Paterson has been writing and communicating about wine for the past fifteen years.

    Over that time Paterson has contributed to numerous publications, writing hundreds of articles advising wine lovers on what to try and buy. She has been the Drinks Writer for Australian House and Garden magazine for the past nine years and is a contributor and tasting panelist for Gourmet Traveller WINE. She has authored three consumer wine guides, published by Random House, and has been a columnist for Australian Good Food and Life etc. magazine. She has also contributed to the Qantas inflight magazine and the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, to name but a few.

    Paterson, at the age of 28, passed the rigorous Master of Wine (MW) examinations in 2001 on her first attempt, and was awarded the prestigious Madame Lily Bollinger Medal for tasting excellence. She completed her MW dissertation on Australian Chardonnay: Past, Present and Future, before being formally admitted as a member of the institute in 2003. She has a degree in Applied Science, majoring in Biotechnology, as well as a Masters in Oenology, where she researched the impact of pH and acidity levels on sparkling wine, and Champagne, aromas and flavours.

    After university she worked as a winemaker in Victoria and South Australia, before relocating to London, where she had a marketing and promotional role throughout Europe and Scandinavia. During her time abroad she amassed an international wine perspective that further adds to her value as a commentator and critic.

    Paterson has judged at many international and local wine shows including, but not limited to, the Decanter World Wine Awards, International Wine Challenge, International Wine and Spirit Competition, Canberra International Riesling Challenge, Adelaide Wine Show, Sydney Royal Wine Show, Boutique Wine Awards, Mudgee Wine Show as well as chairing the Marananga and Orange Wine Shows. She is a member of The Wine Society’s tasting panel and is involved in the Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year awards. She is also a judge for the Wine List of the Year awards in Australia and China.

    Paterson combines her deep love of wine with her passion for food, cooking, photography, music and travel. She currently resides in Sydney with husband Anthony and their three children.

  • My tasting notes focus on the structure of a wine as much as the flavour. The descriptors I use directly relate to what I taste and smell in the glass. Harmony, balance and persistence are rewarded. While I take an open-minded approach to all wines I taste, clarity of fruit, a sense of place and/or continuity of style are paramount. Expression is essential, whether it be simple or complex.

    Most of the wines I review are from tastings conducted on my own tasting bench. However, others come from various tastings, exhibitions and wine competitions. I taste ‘blind’ where possible on the first pass, however once I have made my initial assessment, I unveil the wine to further understand its nature and style. Only finished wines are scored and reviewed.

    Although I largely follow the Australian wine show system for scoring, I like the additional divisions that the 100-point system allows. So I now have two columns when I am recording my scores! Occasionally a wine will not be rated if it is thought to be out of condition through no fault of its own i.e. a closure imperfection.

    I am always as objective as possible when it comes to assessing inherent quality, particularly when tasting wines vastly different in style. The score, as much as it can be, should be an objective assessment. However, I let my personal preferences be known in the comments, particularly for wines I really enjoy.

    I also make reference to value, where relevant, and I occasionally talk about foods that will bring out the best in the wine. Though, because people vary in their sensitivities, experiences and perceptions of quality, there will inevitably be some divergence between reviewers. Please be mindful that a wine can never be described by a score alone. The detailed comments will help inform you about the character of a wine and whether it is likely to be to your taste.

    I am a firm and honest believer in how the sensitivity of ones’ palate can be affected by ones’ lifestyle, health, nutrition and tiredness. So if I don’t feel that my palate is in top form, I won’t taste that day. When I am tasting, I try not to assess more than thirty wines in a day. Though depending on how I am feeling, I will keep tasting for longer or stop earlier.

    The more I taste wine, the more I am aware of the problems associated with tasting wines at the wrong temperature. I taste with a thermometer by my side and make adjustments where necessary.

    I make sure that I give each wine the time it deserves. While some wines reveal all I need to know on the first taste, others are assessed over a number of days to fully explore and appreciate what they have to offer. This process also gives me an indication of how well the wines will age. And sometimes when required, I try the wines with food, especially when phenolics are part of the style.