By Jen Pfeiffer
Ever wondered what's behind those little gold, silver and bronze stickers you sometimes see displayed on a bottle of wine?
Are they simply another tool of marketing, enticing you to buy that particular wine?
From a winemaker's perspective, wine shows are a very important tool to benchmark and assess where a wine fits from a quality and stylistic point of view.
September and October are the main months of the year in which wine shows are held. Our local show, the Rutherglen Wine Show, is one of the longest ever running shows and has been running for over 120 years.
The Rutherglen Wine Show attracts approximately 2,000 entries. Each entry has a special label, which makes it identifiable by class, vintage and exhibit number (much like an agricultural show). In most classes, exhibitors are required to send 4 bottles of wine per entry, so you can imagine the logistics behind organising a show of Rutherglen's size.
The Chairman of Judges selects a team of 3 judges per panel and 2 associate judges (judges in training). At Rutherglen, there are 4 panels, so 12 judges and 8 associate judges participate in the wine show. Over the course of the 4-5 days of the show, the judges rotate between panels.
All the wines are presented blind to the judges – i.e. the wine judge never sees the bottle from which the wine is poured, only being presented with a series of glasses each with an exhibit number. The wine judge does, however, know the class (usually wine variety) and vintage. Eg) Class 102 at the Rutherglen Wine Show is 2011 Riesling.
There are 150-180 wines tasted per day by each judge, so a high level of concentration needs to be maintained at all times.
Each wine is given a score out of 20, based on colour, bouquet and palate. The 3 judges points are tallied to give a total score out of 60. A bronze medal is awarded to a wine with a total score between 46.5 and 50.9; a silver medal with a total score between 51.0 and 55.4 and a gold medal with a total score between 55.5 and 60.
A top gold medal is then chosen from the gold awarded wines which will then proceed to go into the trophy line up. A trophy will be awarded to the best wine of its type, eg) Best Fortified Wine of Show or Best Shiraz of Show, etc.
Averages suggest that only 3-4% of all entries receive gold medals, 10-12% receive silver medals and 30-40% receive bronze medals. As you can see, any wine awarded any medal in a wine show is of very high quality.
Behind the scenes, there is a dedicated team of stewards running the floor and administrators processing the results, to ensure the show runs smoothly. On average, over 4,000 glasses of wine would be poured at Rutherglen per day, and as such 4,000 glasses are required to be washed. All the results are logged into the computer and within 2 days of the judging being completed, the results catalogue is printed ready for the Presentation of Awards dinner.
So as you can see, there is a lot that goes into the running of a wine show.