I did not plan on writing on this matter but the guys from Apollowine got interested to hear more about. Yana Petkova has already elaborated on how wines are judged at the International Wine Challenge London. As my impressions from my second year of judging in IWC last week are still fresh, I will write a few notes.
IWC tastings last a fortnight where the wines are judged. Shortly after trophies are awarded. The way of judging is fascinating. Every single wine has all the chances of winning a medal. For objectivity the wines are valued by different teams. Each wine is tasted at least twice and the five chairmen of the IWC would have the last word if consensus is not previously achieved.
All judges are standing while tasting. It may look exhausting, but the whole process is so consuming that it is barely an issue, unless on high-heels (there are some high-heels masters though). A tasting panel goes on two tables. The one of them is always served and ready for the next flight. Thus any pouring, unloading and distraction by the staff is avoided.
These are some amazing and funny days of tasting wines from around the world, meeting some old as well as new fellows tasters, writers, critics and winemakers.
Along with the pleasant emotions, sometimes come disappointments. This year I had a flight with 8 Portuguese red wines, 4 of which went down unworthy of a medal. Despite the young vintage 2012, they have gone bad, oxidised, no “nose” and taste. I am still wondering why somebody bothered sending samples…
It is always fun at the IWC…
Last (my first) year in IWC, my task was to find my first gold medal wine (a requirement for all the rookies). I was supposed to do this at an early stage, in the very beginning of the competition whereas all the wines were judged if they are worthy of a medal. I had to discover that particular wine and write detailed tasting notes. In addition, I needed to back up my choice. Then the very same wine is tasted at least twice more, including the five chairmen. Unfortunately I felt like there was not a single impressive wine at all. At the end of the tasting day I had a flight of unoaked Spanish whites, with one exception. Although, I am pretty fastidious about oaked white wines, I was impressed by this exception. It was a blend of Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca and it received my gold medal. A wine with medium (-) acidity levels, pronounced flavours derived from the oak and a lot of fruit, finesse and balance though. This was Camino del Monte White Reserva, 2009 by Grupo Baron de Ley. It sales at £ 15 RPR and is not easy to find.
Finally, if I have to draw a general conclusion from my experience in judging at the International Wine Challenge, the trend is toward more elegant and delicate wines, not over-loaded and over-extracted high-alcoholic bombs.