This year, the International Wine Challenge has undergone a degree of reinvention, and it's now better than it's ever been. New chair people Sam Harrop and Tim Atkin have been added, complementing the existing duo of Charles Metcalfe and Derek Smedley; Robert Joseph has stepped down.
I attended yesterday, acting for the first time as a senior judge, which means you get to run one of the tasting teams, and you also get ££££. It was a good day's tasting and I was impressed by the organization. Lunch was nice, too.
What are the changes? Well, the panel of 25-odd superjurors has gone. It's just the four chairs who get to have the final say, which introduces much more consistency into the competition.
There are two rounds of tasting. In the first week wines are tasted and the only decision is whether they are medal winners or not. The second week concentrates on looking more closely at just the medal-winning wines, to decide exactly which medal they get. In the past, all previous years' medal winning wines got a bye into the second week of tasting (albeit usually in the follow-in vintage); now, everything gets tasted in the first week, which is a big improvement.
The faults clinic is also much more rigorous this year, with Sam Harrop in charge: the data gathered are likely to be much more dependable, and I can't wait to see them.