The Sierra Sage
WINE, BEER & SPIRITS
WINE, BEER & SPIRITS
A guide to adult beverages and featured drinking establishments
Current Feature: Wine Competitions and Judging
Wine competitions and judging
Imagine having 35 glasses of wine placed in front of you, each labeled with a number waiting for you to decide whether it is worthy of an award. The only information you will be given is the grape variety and the vintage. Repeat this scenario three or four times a day for three days strait. Yes, you must spit out all the wine, even the good ones! Major wine competitions require panels of four or five judges to evaluate over a hundred wines each day giving the best wines medals of gold, silver or bronze.
The California State Fair hosts one of the largest competitions in the country each year with over 2800 wines submitted for evaluation. Only a few hundred will receive medals. Judges are wine professionals who must pass rigorous testing involving the identification of wine quality, faults and varietals prior to the competition. After more than 15 years judging wine, it is still a constant learning experience as each vintage is different and winemaking trends change often.
Wineries submit wine to these competitions hoping to gain the marketing advantage a medal brings. There is an old saying in the wine industry that “gold means sold!”A medal winning wine must be free of faults, balanced and typical for the varietal. A gold medal tells the consumer that the judges felt the wine was exceptional. Silver is given to very good wines lacking the completeness of gold quality. Bronze indicates an enjoyable wine, free of faults but without much in the way of complexity.
Judging wine is a learned skill requiring a study of typical wine faults and what makes a wine "balanced". Too much oak, excessive sweetness or acidy can bring undesirable notes forward.
Winemakers often doctor wines to create a specific style or to hide deficiencies in the finished wine. It is up to the judge to separate wines that are overly manipulated or if the changes are based on a particular wine style.
A medal is no guarantee that you will like a wine but at least you will know that someone did.
Fruit of the Vine
by Roger & Colleen Stockton
Roger and Colleen Stockton are wine educators and consultants based in northern Nevada. They can be reached at WineCouple@InnovativeWine.com or (775) 882-4108.