A Judge For A Day
I was really pleased to be asked by The Wine Merchant magazine to be one of the judges on the panel to help chose the top 100 wines.
The top 100 wines are selected from an entry of over 400 wines that have been sent in by wine importers who sell to independent wine merchants. This is why wine merchants are asked to do the judging, they come from all over the country, from Scotland to Cornwall and everywhere in between.
Having never been a judge before I was a little nervous, apprehensive and excited.
With a very early start on the 6am train ready to be in London for 9am, I arrived with enough time for coffee and chats with the other judges, which is always a good opportunity to network and share ideas.
The day began with an introduction from Graham who is owner and editor of The Wine Merchant magazine and David Williams wine writer and senior judge. There were four senior wine judges who attend every year and the rest change to give diversity. One of the senior judges is Kate Goodman, who is the wine expert from the BBC Food and Drink programme.
The tasting is carried out blind with regards to not knowing the supplier and producer however the grape, country and price of the wine is known. This gives the judge the ability to know if it is a good example of that style of wine at a certain price point.
We were split in to teams of two and I was paired with Jamie who owns the Old Chapel Wine Cellars in Truro Cornwall.
The day began with Italian reds, which really was a tough place to start before 9.30, the reds delivered on tannin, acidity which is what you would expect from wines such as Barolo. The fruiter young Valpolicella’s were a welcome refreshing relief!
The morning session was a simple case of yes or no, did they fit the bill, would we consider buying them for the shop?
The no’s would then be re tasted by the senior judges to make sure nothing slipped through the net.
Jamie and I would not always agree with the each others decision which meant re tasting and reasoning why we felt that way towards the wine. The bottom line is, would you buy it and be happy to sell it at that price to your customers, this pushed to get the final answer.
After lunch, we had to go back through the “yes’s” to score and write tasting notes for each wine. Scoring them was the toughest bit to do, as again Jamie and I didn’t always agree which lead to further discussion about the wine.
The overall process was really good fun and I found very interesting. I felt that we were rigorous and fair in our tasting and gave consideration where food would enhance the wine.
Would I like to judge again… Yes I would.
wine is no different to any other thing in this world in which you are asking an individual to have an opinion. I base my opinion on wines against those I know whose tastes I know & trust. I have over a period of time learned to balance my taste against Kelli’s so I know how to read the difference in our taste. If Kelli says it is good I know I can trust that opinion.
Thanks Graham, really lovely to know you trust my opinion.
Happy Tasting : )
It is interesting.
The fact that you disagreed with Jamie is maybe not a reflection on the wine, but how the wine tastes on your palate.
Also you are both going to have a natural biases as to whether you like for example deeper wines against fruitier wines, thus your opinion is going to be swayed by your personal likes or dislikes,.
Which is where I think judging things like wines, paintings, photographs, and etc. is always going to be influenced by our own personal likes and dislikes.
It is interesting is it not.
Thanks John, it is very interesting.
There is the systematic approach to tasting which enables us to judge the structure of the wine, which gives you a guide on what the wine should taste like. That is why knowing the price is good, as this can be the over riding factor. Is the wine worth that, do I as an independent feel happy to sell that wine to customers at that price.
There are some wines that aren’t to my taste, but I need to judge if they are good quality to enable me to sell them to those that like it.
You are influenced by personal taste, however to judge a wine you do need to take a step back and look at the overall structure and makeup of the wine.
Thanks again John and happy tasting ; )