jamie goode's wine blog: Striking gold at the IWC

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Striking gold at the IWC

Another day's tasting at the International Wine Challenge. After a short day on Tuesday where we were finished mid-afternoon, the last two days have been quite hard work - we've been going full throttle until 4.30 pm. I know it sounds a bit effete when you explain to people that you've been tasting wine all day, but it requires a lot of concentration and stamina. Yes, really!

This week the goal has been to re-taste the wines that we selected last week as being potentially medal-worthy. In our panels of four, five or six tasters we look at the wines carefully, in short flights of up to eight, and decide what medal to give each one, if indeed they really deserve a medal at all.

Leading a panel of tasters is quite a sensitive task. Everyone has their own opinions, and sometimes these opinions differ quite markedly. Rather than simply average out all the scores, which would lead to massive clustering, with almost all wines getting bronze medals, I'm on the lookout for potential gold and silver medal winners. If just some of the panel think a wine is worth a gold, then we'll take another look at the wine with a view to seeing whether we can agree to raise our scores a bit - as long as the wine justifies it, of course.

Our panel today managed to dish out half a dozen gold medals, and I think the wines that were thus awarded were all fantastic. That's after awarding no gold medals on the previous two days. The wines getting silver were all pretty smart, too. For some reason, we had a lot of Portuguese wines today, which I enjoyed. We started with some lovely Nuits-St-Georges and finished with some cracking liqueur Muscats.

I do need to mention the organization of the challenge, and the behind-the-scenes team. They've delivered a flawless performance. Each team works on two tables, and while we're judging one flight, the previous flight is cleared away and the next is laid out, so that there are always wines waiting to be tasted. If a bottle is faulty, a replacement is quickly found - no easy feat when there are 10 000 different wines in the competition. The flights have also varied nicely, with white fights interspersing red to keep our palates fresh.

Lunches are also excellent. One side of the room takes a 12.15 lunch; the other has the 13.15 slot. You desperately want to have a 12.15 lunch, or else the morning becomes a very long session!

Just one more day to go of the regular judging, and then the trophy tasting next Wednesday. It has been fun being involved in this competition.



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