"They came to collect, silver and gold…"

by Katie Pizzuto on January 29, 2009

in Uncategorized,wine judging

gold_ribbonJoe Blow had been asked to judge the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition a couple of years ago and decided to go ahead and join the panel, completely unaware of the fact that his judging was also gonna get judged. After hobnobbing with the other 3 judges the day of the competition, pissing and moaning that someone was apparently wearing cologne, and doing whatever else wine judges might to do prepare their palates for an exhausting day, Joe bulldozed his way through 30 wines. He then wiped the sweat from his brow and the drool from his mouth, and tasted another flight of 30 wines, and another, and another…though my guess is he probably stopped to eat and pee along the way. What Joe didn’t know was that during the course of the day he and the other judges were given the same exact wine, from the same exact bottle, 3 different times. The first 2 times they seemed to dislike it so much that it was rejected (thus making it unable to advance to the final judging). But third time’s definitely a charm because Joe Blow and company not only accepted the 3rd sample of the same wine for final judging, but it also went on to receive a double-gold medal. Hoo-fuckin’-ray for objectivity.

I’m not saying that wine judges are dolts—not this time, anyway. After tasting several dozen wines, the inside of your mouth usually gets to feeling like you’ve been sucking on a rubber hose that was dunked in a yummy combination of acetone and Novacaine. When Sutter Home starts tasting like Chateaux Margaux, and Richebourg starts tasting like dirty dishwater you know you should be packing up your tasting notes and heading home, but you can’t. By the third time you hand me the same wine, if 95 others have been sipped and spit, I might react differently, too. But what sucks is that ABC Winery will have just paid a shitload of money to enter a competition where winning and losing (objective terms) are determined by tired schmos (subjective terms). Consistent results—obviously an oxymoron in wine competition—will make or break you, and it’s pretty clear from the results of these trials that judges are not consistent with whether or not they like a wine in such settings. The wine they tasted in triplicate would never have stood a chance in a true challenge, because it was disliked and eliminated on the first go-around. Yet, somehow, several hours later, it was taking home two gold medals and flipping other wines the bird because it was so well received.

So what Joe Blow and I hope you take away from these eye-opening trials is that:

1.    If you fool me once, shame on you. If you fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time and someone’s going home with a medal.

2.    Sutter Home proprietors should start entering more wine competitions.

3.    Consistency and objectivity are vewwwy vewwwy big words that have no business being used at a wine tasting.

4.    Never judge a wine by its pretty stickers (or lack thereof).

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coupe 60 January 29, 2009

Maybe they were fooled by the wine the 1st two times, and the third time was the true taste and feeling for the wine…did you ever consider that possibility? Did ya?

Those contests never seem to mean much to me…probably for that very reason…I have tasted several “gold medal at this ” wines that were virtually undrinkable.

Heck, Charles Shaw Chardonnay has won several awards at these type of events…

Personally I only drink whatever Jay Miller says is good …

(please know I am kidding)


2 Katie Pizzuto January 29, 2009

Yeah well, Jay Miller specialized in child psychotherapy way back when, so I can see how you’d be drawn to him, Coupe 🙂


3 Linsey January 30, 2009

hmmm… i always buy wine based on the label lol


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