Today was the last day of the International Wine Challenge (IWC), and today I was admitted to the inner circle: I was asked to fill in as a co-chair for the morning, along with Tim Atkin, Sam Harrop, Charles Metcalfe, Derek Smedley and Victor de la Serna (overseas guest co-chair). The co-chairs perform an important job which helps make the IWC results more robust.
As the flights come in from the panels on the tasting floor, each is retasted by a co-chair to check for consistency of scoring. Much of the time, the panel will have got it right, but some wines will have been scored a bit harshly, and a few (interestingly, not as many) a bit generously. If the co-chair suspects this, they’ll mark it on the sheet, and then another co-chair will have a look to help determine the final medal.
From the flights I retasted, I pulled a number of wines up, and a few down. In almost all cases, the others agreed. Some panels end up being a bit too tough on wines, often because of one or two rather mean judges. Frequently, the panel chair’s score is right, and other judges on the panel have simply not understood the wine.
It was really interesting to see how this top level of judging works. It’s not fiddling, and it doesn’t minimize the important job that the tasting panels do, even if in some cases they are overridden. Without the tasting panels, you couldn’t have this extra layer of checks and balances. The fact that medal-winning wines will have been tasted so many times adds a great deal of robustness to the final results from this competition.
So the IWC is over for another year (save for the trophy judging next week). It has been a thoroughly enjoyable, if a little tiring, two weeks. Now I have to catch up on the rest of my life, and make a dental appointment.