Friday, 27 July 2012
Atop the Wine Podium...
With the start of the Olympics this weekend, you may reflect on what it takes for a wine to be granted a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal in any given wine competition. Or what more, how does a wine achieve a score such as 92 points (of 100) or 18.5 (of 20)? How can a $20 wine score higher than a $70 wine? While the worlds of wine and sport may appear to be different, parallel bars do exist between judging sport and wine.
As we all know, wine is enjoyed by everyone on a subjective matter, so there is nothing in the absolute terms as the best wine as we would see a fastest runner, highest jumper, or strongest weightlifter. Instead, like judges of gymnastics or synchronised swimming, wine judges are trained to be able to discern the fundamental elements of the wine before them and rate accordingly. Formal wine tasting is divided into appearance, nose, palate, and conclusions. Points are assigned in each category. With regards to conclusions, for example, the acronym B.L.I.C.E. is a good way to determine a wine's overall rating: Balance (are all the parts in harmony?); Length(how long do the flavours last?); Intensity (how well can you detect the flavours?); Complexity (how many flavours are going on?); Expression (is the wine indicative of the grape(s) and region?). Score well on each of these elements and your wine may be in the running for a gold medal.
As above, however, how can a much less expensive wine score significantly higher than a much more expensive wine? An explanation for this can be found in such sports as boxing or wrestling. No one expects a featherweight to be able to take on a heavyweight, so a $15 bottle of wine is not expected to outclass a $50. As such, each price range can be related to a weightclass; gold medal winners show the best for their respective range. Likewise, as distances have separate competitions on the track, different categories exist for each varietal or blend. In this way, Rieslings will be judged on their own merit and not against a grape of completely different style, like Chardonnay.
The fun thing with my training and occupation is that I can play the role of Wine judge on a daily basis. On average, about 10 wines will pass my palate and I get to decide (along with my peers) which wines pass the test and get listed. My own Olympic tasting record is 100 wines (exactly) in one day. Like a marathon, it took lots of training and pacing in order to achieve not only the goal of getting through the wines but also to taste and judge effectively. Of that group, only a dozen or so reached the heights of gold with a few silvers and bronzes; most were eliminated in the qualifying heats.
I'm certainly not the Olympic athelete in the family (that's my cousin - as my Mum pointed out, I'm the smart one), but I could always represent as an Olympic wine judge. A tough job, but someone has to do it. Wh