Wine judging highs and lows
Tuesday 30 June
I took up the offer from the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) to attend a one-day version of its Advanced Wine Assessment Course for budding show judges yesterday.
A mixed bag of journalists, wine buyers, and sommeliers turned up to the event looking slightly anxious and were presented with two flights of 20 wines to judge during the day. The variation in marks from gold down to commended for virtually every wine (and, often the disparity with the medals they won at the International Wine Challenge) was an eye-opener.
To throw a spanner in the works it turned out all the wines in each flight were duplicated, and one national journalist, who shall remain unnamed, admitted they gave the same wine both a bronze and a gold. I think we probably need to go on the four-day version of the course.
While I did pretty well in the main with consistent marking and in line with the majority, I am prepared to confess I gave the 2008 Nottage Hill Riesling a gold medal, writing it had kerosene and lime notes, lovely concentration, was well defined with fresh acidity on the finish. Never did I think I would say this, but… Go Nottage Hill!! Fortunately, one other person thought it was worthy of a gold too – none other than Jancis Robinson MW, OBE would you believe (big sigh of relief that I’m not a complete tasting muppet)! In the International Wine Challenge, it managed a lowly commended. Oh dear.
Another wine had way too much brettanomyces leatheriness for me. The guidelines stated faulty wines shouldn’t be given an award, so it didn’t get one. But others loved its ‘farmyardy’ character, and it won a gold at the IWC. What does this tell you?
So, we all have different palates and, as any wine judge will admit, there are flaws to the process.
The AWRI has already put 800 people through the full course in Oz and it will probably be held in the UK again next year. Do it, if you can get an invite.
Off to dinner with Groote Post tonight. More on that later…