The importance of the life-long contribution of Leonard Paul Evans (Len or LPE to his friends) to the cause of wine can partly be gauged by five letters after his name: AO, OBE. This unfailingly generous, incredibly energetic man spent his wine-life (and his other interests) pursuing excellence, urging others to do the same. He was equally scathing about complacency and mediocrity, which he saw as the greatest danger to the Australian wine industry.
All of these strands, woven together over a 40-year period, came to fruition with the Len Evans Tutorial. Len was not one to boast about any of his innumerable achievements, but we who knew him better than most others, know he regarded the Tutorial as the greatest of them all.
Over a five-day period, starting in the morning and continuing through the course of dinner at night, the 12 selected scholars for the Tutorial are exposed to the great wines of the world, young and old. There are blind tastings each morning of 30 varietal wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet/Cabernet blends) from up to five countries and spanning up to 30 years. The wines are judged as if they were in an Australian wine show, and every scholar sequentially calls his or her points for each wine, and has to justify those points where they differ from the tutors’ points.
There are Masterclass sessions each afternoon, focussing on recent vintages of the greatest wines of France, Italy, Spain and Germany. These Masterclasses are conducted by the tutors, who take the scholars through the finer points of their topic, be it Burgundy, Bordeaux or Riesling.
The dinners are in a class of their own, usually with five or more brackets of wines, some 40 or more years old. They cover the best known (for example, 1982 First Growth Bordeaux) to the least known (for example, 60-year-old Riojas or Vouvrays), and the great Australian classics of the last 50 years. Various forms of the Options game are used as each scholar try’s to determine these wines, which eventually leads to the identification of the wines (as they are all served blind).
The one continuous feature of these forums is great quality, which comes to a crescendo on the final morning when the six red Burgundies of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are presented blind. Here each scholar has to identify the vintage, and the six Appellation Controlees from which they respectively come.
As the prices of great European wines continue to escalate, and (for example) the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines are all pre-sold before they arrive in Australia, access to the wines presented during the week has moved out of reach for most of the scholars. While only one can be a Dux, the Basil Sellers Prize for Dux is a return Business Class trip to Europe, every scholar has gone away from the week imbued with the vision of Len Evans. They have been guaranteed (and given) positions as associate judges at the next Sydney Royal Wine Show (and other shows), and many have already progressed to full judge status, some to panel chair status.
Equally importantly, they have passed on to their peers their knowledge (and desire to continue learning) about the great wines of the world, and Australia’s position in that world. It is the absolute determination of the Trustees of the Tutorial, and of the tutors, to continue, and, as Len would insist, to make each Tutorial better than the one which preceded it.