Last month I had a wonderful experience judging at the International Wine Challenge in London. Over two very intense days I tasted a large variety of wines from all around the world. Met fantastic people, caught up with old friends, made new ones and had many a laugh.
One of those experiences that you walk away from thinking, this is why I work in this industry, the wine and the people. The calibre of the judges at the International Wine Challenge is quite something, The Chairmen for the competition – Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW, and Charles Metcalfe, whose morning pep talks are reason enough to want to judge at this competition.
I made the wise decision (not really a choice, it was just how my timing worked) to judge in the second week, what is called Round Two. This meant that we were looking at wines that had already been reviewed and the ones remaining were in contention for medals. The process of judging involves a team of generally 4 people, made up of a Panel Chair, a senior judge and two others. You taste the wines as they are presented to you, all blind and organised into types. So you’ll get a set of New Zealand Chardonnay for example, or in a whole flight of Vinho Verde, the variety is extraordinary; it is the International Wine Challenge after all. All the judges taste independently and then read out their scores which are collated and the discussion begins. After the panel decides the medals (or not) to award to the line up in front of them, the wines are re-tasted by the esteemed Chairmen noted above to verify the results. As you taste, the room is filled with the vibe of Tim Atkin’s music choice and the ever increasing volume of chatter from around 80 judges a day tasting through the vast number of entries this competition attracts.
The process, as you can see from this brief account, is rigorous and thorough. To then see out of this come the extensive collection of New Zealand wines being awarded medals is a real testament to where we stand on the world stage with our wines and the overall quality. In total there were over 400 medals awarded to NZ wines this year.
So at the end of all of this judging I certainly did not feel at all like another glass of wine. I decided it a far better idea to taste my way through a series of London Gins, which went down very well indeed.