Small Sips #14: Wine Competitions

Would a shiny gold medal sway you in the wine aisle? Wineries think so; that’s why the globe’s most successful wine competitions – Decanter World Wine Awards, International Wine Challenge, and International Wine & Spirit Competition – to name a few, attract many thousands of entries each year.

At these shows, teams of wine trade luminaries – MWs, wine journalists and the like –– blind-taste and grade their way through 100-200 wines per day. (Actually harder work than it sounds!)Wines are usually categorized by country and region, colour, grape, style, vintage, and price. In this way, each wine flight is judged against its peers. More in depth grading occurs on clarity, aroma, bouquet, taste, after-taste, and overall quality. When a varietal has a range of sweet styles (like Rielsing) it is tasted from dry to sweet The bottles are then scored and ranked, and an array of dazzling medals, stars and points doled out accordingly.

Detractors charge that competitions are biased against subtlety (you never see a 100-point Muscadet) and that the results are meaningless, unreliable, and averaged out to the point of uselessness. But the more well-run competitions, like the trio mentioned above, bring real rigour, discipline and professionalism to the process. Gaining these medals can help to propel the reputation of a small winery with much needed publicity and marketing. In these cases, the shiny badges are really worth something.


Image: Zonte’s Footstep Love Symbol Grenache with multiple medals; © Zonte’s Footstep.

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