Medal Winning Wines: Does it mean anything?

Saturday April 12th and the day started at 8.30 in Bourg sur Gironde on the right bank of the Gironde at the Challenge International du Vin’s 32nd competition of judging international wines, France’s oldest international wine competiton. This year there were over 5000 entries from 35 countries and 900 tasters to judge the wines. I was one of the judges in jurys of four people (an oenologist, amateur, professional like a producer or negociant and sommelier/journalist etc). We tasted two series of 12 wines blind. We were given the appellation and vintage.

Freezing cold morning and wines. Tasting Cotes de Blaye 2006 at 2 degrees! We awarded one silver and three bronze medals. Second series (St Emilion satellites 2006 and 2005)  was warmer and we had warmed up too, got to know our fellow judges and began to relax into it more. Awarded a gold (a 2005 Montagne St Emilion) , a silver and three bronze medals. (Results come out April 18th All pretty much agreed on the very good wines (and the very bad) it was just the ones in-between that it was difficult to feel strongly about one way or another.

I like that amateurs are included in this competition. It is aimed at the consumer after all. The judgment of the jury is final. What power, to make or break! Parker eat your heart out. We filled in standard sheets by ticking boxes for style, flavours, structure and maturity for example. Each judge included a commentary for each wine medal winners or not. Later on at dinner sat next to the winner of the Special Award for best Bourg wine – Chateau Puybarbe 2005. Mr Orlandi said that producers are almost more interested in feedback if there wine does not win a medal than if it does.

I think it does mean something but winetasting is so subjective that it is difficult with such small jurys. In my opinion there should be jurys which just deselect all of the average wines. The other wines go through and there is a process of elimination at each level. Then finally the wines are selected for medals. The order of the wines is so important and can so affect your opinion. Also we cannot help but compare wines in the category rather than look at the wines on their own merits.

Wonderful atmosphere of over 900 tasters (wine enthusiasts be they amateur or professional) who make sure they guard the date preciously for their chance to taste wines from around the world. Meet up with their friends and after the competition they are offered a wonderful four course meal in a large marquis at the Citadelle de Blaye where they can taste the medal winners from the year before. Great ambience.

If you are in the area on Saturday April 18th 2009 make sure to get your application in on time!

Next Competition for me to judge is the Vins d’Aquitaine on Saturday May 10th. Keep you posted.




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