The first week of the International Wine Challenge has ended. A great week, and the new venue, Lord’s, has been great.
OK, the lunches aren’t quite as good as the Michelin-star level creations of Searcy’s at the Barbican, but they’re still well above par – two courses, plenty of variety. The Barbican was logistically ideal, but the advantage the Nursery Pavillion has is natural light.
The strength of the competition is the quality of the judges. The odd nutter or bad taster might slip through the net, but because of the extensive feedback they are quickly weeded out. I’ve had only nice, competent people judging with me this week, and this makes the whole process – which is inevitably tough work with around 13 000 wines to get through – much more fun.
The weather has been pretty horrible, though. Cold and wet and wintry. The Middlesex game that was supposed to be taking place on Thursday and Friday was almost completely washed out, although a few overs were possible on Friday between the heavy rain showers.
One change this year has been the presence of two scientists from the Australian Wine Research Institute who are helping Sam Harrop out with the faults clinic. They are Geoff Cowey and Martin Day. As well as lending their expertise to the diagnosis of faults, they are taking samples of suspected faulty wines back to Australia for chemical analysis.
Since the faults clinic was established by Sam in 2006, over 90 000 wines have passed through the competition, which is a remarkable sample. Of these, 6.4% have been deemed faulty by sensory analysis. This year there will be a chance to see how this sensory analysis correlates with chemical analysis, something that wine science geeks like me are very excited about.
Sam says that 60% of wines sent to him as faulty are declared not faulty: he takes a conservative approach. In terms of figures, cork taint has been 2.7% over the 6 years it has been logged, and brett has been 1.6% (but this is confined to red wines, so it is more of a problem than this figure indicates). The three chief faults, representing a quarter of all faults each, have been cork taint, oxidation and reduction/sulfur compounds (sulfides and mercaptans).