TOP 10: things I like about judging at the IWC
Just finished the first week of the International Wine Challenge. It's been tough but fun, and now I'm properly tired. [Fiona pointed out that this is probably because I'm not used to proper work.] So here's my top ten things I like about judging at the IWC.
1. The chance to meet new people
One of the best things about the Challenge is meeting new people and making new connections. If you spend a day judging with someone, you get to know them a bit.
2. Catching up with colleagues
There's a real collegiate spirit in the wine trade. A sense that we're all on the same team. I think it comes from working with something we're interested in, and perhaps being driven more by this than by the lure of financial reward. Anyway, the Challenge gives us all a great chance to catch up and chat, and pull together in a common cause.
3. The lunches
We get fed well, at Searcy's restaurant in the Barbican complex. The food is really, really good – two courses, plus sparkling water of course.
4. The wines
Tasting lots of wines blind in matched flights is an interesting experience. You learn quite a bit, both from the similarities and the differences. Labels influence us in all sorts of ways, so it's good to look at wines identity unknown from time to time.
5. Palate sharpening
I think that after a few days of intensive tasting your palate does get better. It's a it like an athelete in training. It's not that you detect things better; rather that you are able to analyse more rapidly and more accurately what your palate is picking up.
6. The venue
The Barbican is a slightly crazy, but ultimately rather cool location. It could easily be the most depressing council estate ever if it was in the wrong place, but this 60s monstrosity is of its time, and where it's located, it's a wonderful place.
7. The organization
It's really good – which makes it easy to taste. And the fact that it all goes on unseen makes the tasting floor quite a relaxed place, even though I'm sure it's a logistical nightmare behing the scenes.
8. The results
It's nice to be contributing towards a tool (the IWC medals) that actually helps consumers navigate the wall of wine in their local supermarket.
9 The workload
We taste a lot of wines each day, but not too many. About 100 – any more would be tough going.
10. Cooper's at the end of the day
When all the judging is finiished, we sit down for a Cooper's Sparkling Ale – or a Greene King IPA (new this year). It's sociable, and a great way to finish a day's tasting.