Award winning wines | SierraSun.com

Award winning wines

Janice JonesFood andamp; Wine

Pick up any wine publication, or open any newspaper and you are sure to see numerous wines being touted as a winning wine from one wine competition or another. Ever wonder what a wine competition is, or how a wine is selected and judged? Or does a special award truly indicate a wine is superior?Wine competitions have been around for a long time, and it seems each year a few more crop up. One of the newest will be held in early 2009, that will judge the tastiest green wines. California hosts some of the most prestigious competitions, with awards given in a variety of categories. Most of these competitions award bronze, silver, gold and even double gold medals.Wine competitions use a panel of judges who are involved in the wine industry, and the more prestigious competitions use judges who have also obtained judges training and certification. The wines are generally judged in a blind tasting, rating wines of the same varietal against one another. In many of the popular competitions, there are a multitude of medals awarded, with more than a third, and many times up to one half of the wines entered receiving an award.This is why winemakers and marketing managers love entering their wines they can use the term award winning wine in selling their product. Wineries provide each competition the samples of the wines to be judged.

The most famous competition, the one that first recognized California as a world-class wine producing region, was the Judgment in Paris in 1976, which vied California and French Chardonnays and Cabernet sauvignon. The judges in that blind tasting selected six out of 10 Chards from California. The 73 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, by Mike Grgich was the top, and the 73 Stags Leap Cellars was the best Cabernet. This competition changed the wine world and introduced the power of winning a competition as a valuable tool in marketing wine. Most competitions are blind tasting where the wine is evaluated in a glass, therefore the judge is not influenced by anything, such as a label, bottle color or shape, they focus solely on the qualities of the wine they are sampling. The judge will observe, smell and taste the wine, then give it a numeric point value for characteristics they find appealing for the specific varietal.

The wine competition at the state fair is the oldest and one of the most prestigious competitions in America, and is open to bonded California wineries. First held in 1855, it is the only competition that requires all wines to be entered based on the viticulture area in which the the grapes are grown. Winning wines receive a duplicate award to be presented to the single vineyard grape grower or vineyard manager. This is the only competition in the world that honors the grape producers of a winning wine.One of the reasons the state fair judging is held in such great esteem in the wine world is all the judges must pass a qualifying test. The fair was the first judging in the world, beginning in 1950, to require this test. The judges devote four days to the task of selecting the best. Which can be quite a task. In 2007 a whopping 661 wineries submitted 3,029 varieties for judgment.The judges rate the wines numerically and confidentially, with the ratings submitted for tally and rankings by computer. To keep their sense of taste sharp, the judges cleanse their palates with water, neutral flavored crackers, and simple food breaks.Winners in this competition receive bronze, silver, and gold medals, best of class, best of varietal, best region, best dessert, best red and white, and best value. Those wines selected as double gold, silver or bronze, are those selected as outstanding in each of their categories by tallying the points given each wine by the judges.

A wine receiving an award from one of the respected competitions can be considered a good bet for a wine that shows the true character of the grapes used to make it. But an award does not automatically make that wine the perfect example of that varietal. With the number of medals awarded at these competitions, and the large number of competitions held, it would be wise to pick and choose a wine by the quality of the competition, the specific award, double gold, best of class, etc. it received. And remember, many wineries do not enter competitions.

Here are a few of this years winning wines.Best Red Varietal Blend; 2005 Justin Paso Robles Savant Red wine.Best chardonnay; 2005 Martin andamp; Weyrich, Edna Valley.Best Cabernet; 2005 Calcareous, York Mountain.Best Pinot; 2006 Castle Rock winery, Mendocino, which also received Best Value designation as well.

Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at sierrafinewines@yahoo.com.