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QUESTIONS FROM THE WEBSITE

We receive some interesting Questions from time to time. Some of them will possibly be of relevance to a wider audience. As relevant questions are asked and, hopefully, relevant answers are offered, we shall add them to the list below..

TODAYS QUESTION

RICHARD’S QUESTION
I would love to be able to try all of the trophy winning wines, but in this day and age of the Dan Murphy retail dominance, it is near impossible to find even a few of them in local liquor stores. Why not package up a mixed dozen, or however many trophy winning wines there are, and offer them for sale to your email database. That way your average curious wine lover could enjoy a wide variety of wines that he/she wouldn't ordinarily buy, from makers he/she can't ordinarily access. For this significant service, price wouldn't be an issue. I'd charge recommended retail price. What do you think?

WARREN’S ANSWER
Splendid idea Richard. Only problem is, you need a retail liquor licence to do that! NSW Liquor Licensing Laws are restrictive and inflexible. For a retail liquor license, you are talking tens of thousands of dollars at least, if you are lucky enough to buy one. However, Kemenys have been a long term supporter of the Competition and I understand they will be offering a cross section of Award winners in their next catalogue. We do, of course, offer direct email and phone contacts for all the Award winners on their individual pages. Their emails are linked to their customer service person who could tell you who is your nearest stockist. Many thanks for your kind words.

PREVIOUS QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

1) How do you publicise the Competition's award winners? Bjorn, Netherlands

2) Style Categories. What is the meaning of the various classes? Bruce, Victoria, Australia

3) How does a Blue-Gold Award differ from a Gold Medal? Gerard, Western Australia

4) How did the Competition evolve? What led to the creation of the first event? Stacy, New Jersey, USA

5) Could you provide some information on how the Sydney International Wine Competition works? Corinne, Hong Kong

6) Which wine fairs should be entered? What are the up and coming grape varieties? Who starts these trends? Anna, Adelaide, South Australia

7) Is this wine ready to drink? Robin, from Auburn, New South Wales.

8) Your online entry form only allows for two varieties per wine to be shown.  Could you remedy this, please Belinda, South Australia

9) Why is the Oaked or Unoaked question on the Entry Form important for the judging process? Merlene, New Zealand.

10) Does it make any difference to screw top wines if you lay the wine down or stand it up? Bob, Sydney

11) Where on the website can I find a list of the TOP 1OO wines of the show? Bjorn, New Zealand

12) [1] When is the (2012) Wine Competition at Wentworth Falls? [2] Can the public attend? Tanya, Australia

13? I understand how the Blue Gold Awards are awarded but I am a little confused as to how the TOP1OO list is arrived at. Martin

To send us your question, just click HERE.
 

 


MARTIN’S QUESTION
I understand how the Blue Gold Awards are awarded but I am a little confused as to how the TOP1OO list is arrived at. I see from the Questions and Answer section of the website Menu that....aggregate scores are adjusted to ensure Consumers have a choice of TOP 1OO wines in each of the Style Categories. But I'm not clear on how this adjustment works. I know the aim is that the Competition’s website offers consumer targeted information. Have you given consideration to penning a brief explanation as to how these awards are arrived at so that consumers visiting the website and scanning the results understand what the various designations mean. A clear statement of the process would be a big plus.

WARREN’S ANSWER
Martin, many thanks for asking that question.
The process starts long before the judging, as described below, takes place. It takes years to build the consumer confidence in the trademark and years to build the Competition’s reputation for integrity that enables us to assemble these high calibre judging Panels.
Here is an abbreviated step by step jaunt down the path, from cut off point for the 2,000 Entries cap, to the declaration of the Trophy, TOP 1OO, Blue-Gold and Highly Commended Award winners.

[1] In the First Phase Judging. Six Panels of two Judges. Where possible, these six Panels comprise a technical judge and a style judge, and where there is a new chum we pair s/he with one of our experienced/repeat judges.

[2] First Phase Judging is all Varietal. If it is a large class - such as say Chardonnay - it is sorted by vintage, youngest to oldest, then broken down into small brackets of 24 or 36 wines and spread across several or all six panels.

[3] Each Panel, is instructed to judge independently, without conferring, to select their best 20% of the Bracket. Thus, a bracket of 24 - select best five wines. There is some flexibility here. A judge can increase or decrease the 20% quota by one or two wines if s/he considers it warranted.

[4] Chief Judge warns not to be overly influenced by power. Concentrate equally on the merits of the lighter bodied wines, remembering that we are looking for high quality food wines and big powerful wines a certainly not always the ideal complement for diverse dining requirements.

[5] The two judges in each Panel hand their report, declaring the wine mat numbers of their 20% selection, to the Head Floor Steward. This is also the signal that his/her table can be cleared, cleaned and reset with the next bracket.

[6] Head Floor Steward hands the Panel’s two reports to the Head Pouring Steward who compares them for commonly selected wine numbers. These common selections are automatically advanced to the Finals. If the Panel was looking for their five top wines and, without discussion, three were common selections, that means there are four wines, two each, which were selected by only one judge.

[7] These four wines are renumbered 1- 4 and presented to the Chief Judge, judging alone, who is advised we only need two of these to be advanced to the final. In this way, Chief Judge is the third and deciding Judge for all six Panels.

[8] These varietal Categories are sorted by vintage, youngest to oldest. Mixed cépage wines are sorted by dominant variety, greatest %age to lowest. Single or dominant varieties, eg Montepulciano, with only a few entries are presented for first phase judging in their own small groups in the catch all Categories, Other Whites and Other Reds.

[9] By this process, at the end of the First Phase Judging, we end up with the “cream of the crop” - the 400+ Finalists - the top 20% of the capped 2,000 wines Total Entry. These are the only wines with the chance to win an Award.

[10] For the Finals Judging, there are several Specific Categories that only require minor sorting. eg Sparkling wines are sorted into white, pink and red sparkling, by NV and by vintage, youngest to oldest and so on. Dessert wines are sorted by levels of sugar in g/ltr. 80 to 200+ g/ltr, irrespective of Variety. Here are the seven Specific Categories: Sparkling, Aromatic, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Dessert & Fortified.

[11] Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir Finalists - the only two straight varietal Finals Categories - are kept separate because both varieties have such similar and specific characteristics that the appropriate dish for the judging with food Phase is self evident.

[12] The rest of the table wines, representing the main percentage of the finalists, are presented blind, whites all together at one end of 30m of tables, reds at the other. The judges taste and sort these blind bottles, back and forth until they have a continuum of increasing palate weights. Chief Judge then determines the cut-off points for the six “by palate weight” Categories, Lighter, Medium and Fuller Bodied Whites and Reds.

[13] The Judges are now split into two, balanced Panels of six Judges, (The Chief Judge and the Reserve Judge in Residence attach themselves to one or other Panel, according to their interest. The Chief Judge’s marks are always included in the count, the Reserve Judge in Residence’s marks, it depends).

[14] Again, the Judges judge in silence, this time keeping notes and marking each wine on a ten point scale. Their first mark is for the wine just as a wine. Then the food, appropriate to the wine style of the Category, is introduced and the wines are marked again on their ability to complement appropriate food. The two marks are then compared and each judge determines a final score for that wine, again on a ten point scale.

[15] The marks for each wine are then aggregated, and averaged, allowing for the number of judges in the Panel. The judge take there notes, identify the wine by its wine mat number and dictate their comments on each of the finalists they have just judged into a hand held tape recorder (supplied by the Competition).

Now, we get to the kernel of your Question, and it is really quite simple.

[16] In total, the Finalists represent the top ±20% of the capped, 2,000 entries.

[17] The number of Finalists in each of the thirteen Categories offer an indication of the percentage of that Style of wine entered into the Competition. It is also an empirical indication of the quantity of that style of wine being produced and available in the market place.

[18] This in turn determines the number of wines to be offered an Award, in each Category, from the Competition. For example, in the 2012 Competition there were 196 Pinot Noirs entered. Because of equal points 43 wines - 22% - reached the final. Again, equal points play a part, but of those 43 Pinot Noir Finalists, the highest pointed half of them, in fact, 22 wines, were awarded Blue-Gold status, the next 12 wines were awarded Highly Commended status, and the remaining 9 wines were Finalists but did not win an award. Of the top half of the Finalists, ie the 22 Blue-Gold Award winners, the highest pointed half of them gained the prestigious TOP 1OO/Blue Gold distinction. And then, over and above that, one wine wins the Trophy for the Panels’ highest pointed wine of the Category.

[19] (a) It is not possible to make an identical comparison for the “sorted by palate weight” categories because there is no specific count on the number of wines that form the finalists because they come from various varietal Categories. But once the Finalists have been sorted by the judges into their separate palate weight Categories, the same rules apply. Take the Medium Bodied Dry Reds as an example. There were 66 finalists. 32 wines - the top half of the finalists - won Blue-Gold status. Of those 32 wines the highest pointed 16 were awarded TOP 1OO/Blue-Gold status, 16 earned Highly Commended Awards and the remaining 18 wines were Finalists.

(b) In some Wine shows, practically every entry gets an award. But what does that Award mean so far as the consumer is concerned? You can see, overall, for the Sydney International, only ±15% of the Total Entry win any recognition. The 25% of the Finalists that win no Award have the knowledge that they reached the top 20% of the entrants in their Category, judged for technical excellence and food compatibility - in what must be the toughest marking wine competition in the world.

[20] In summary, judged as a complement to appropriate food, the Awards are determined by the computer from the marks granted by a minimum of six experienced, highly qualified, independent international judges.

Of all the wine labels confronting the consumer on a retailer’s display shelves or a restaurant’s wine list, those bottles or menu listings which carry the Competition’s distinctive, trademarked bottle medallion Awards offer the consumer the following:

  • an objective indication of the style of wine in the bottle
  • the assurance that it is technically, a wine of high quality and a compatible complement to appropriate food, after a thorough examination and endorsed by a highly qualified independent international judging Panel.

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TANYA’S QUESTION 

[1] When is the (2012) Wine Competition at Wentworth Falls?
[2] Can the public attend?

 

WARREN'S ANSWER

Tanya! Pleased to hear from you!

[1] The judging of the 2012 Competition takes place 16-21 October 2011. Yes, I know, seems strange. We judge the 2012 Competition in 2011. We do advise the individual entrants of their results, in November 2011, but the overall results are published publicly in late February 2012, via the Competition’s website top100wines.com.

A visit to the website will reveal the reason for the delay between judging and publishing. The website’s public announcement is crammed with information about the Award winners. And it takes time to collect, collate, edit and code all that information, especially with many respondent parties away during Xmas and the New Year holidays. The aim is to offer the most informative, consumer friendly Wine Competition website in the world at the earliest possible date in the New Year – offering an objective Cellar List of currently enjoyable high quality wines to complement every dining requirement – at various price points.

It’s a useful, educational tool for wine consumers wishing to make informed purchasing decisions. The Competition doesn’t sell wine, but we offer all the contact details for the Award winners. Personally, these days, I buy most of our requirements via phone or on-line. Paying delivery charges is so much cheaper and more time efficient than trying to find parking space and the guess work involved in gazing at rows and rows of product, making purchasing decisions on little more than guess work.

[2] The Judges judge in silence. We have removed any need for conferencing. These are all top end, highly qualified judges. We want their objective individual opinions, not group opinions based on a three person Panel’s majority decision. In the Finals Phase judging, at least six Judges offer up their personal assessment of each finalist. The aggregate of their individual marks determines the Award winners. It is not a spectator event. Hence, in response to your second enquiry, the answer is negative. However, there is the opportunity to meet the judges before they disband to their businesses around the world at the Judges' Farewell Dinner. Click it for more information.

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BJORN’S QUESTION 

Where on the website can I find a list of the TOP 1OO wines of the show? I can only find a summary of all award winners. I’m interested in which of our own wines are in the TOP 1OO.

 

WARREN'S ANSWER

How to use the “Help Me Find My Ideal Food Wines” Search Engine.
Dear Bjorn  I’ve just read the press release on the most recent of the larger NZ Wine Competitions. Looks like the Judges have given Awards to 60+% of the total entry!  SIWC Awards, on the other hand, are given to only the top ±15% of the total entry. For this reason we seek not to emphasise the TOP 1OO Award winners too much, because any bottle that carries an SIWC bottle medallion is a wine of merit as determined by an international Panel of highly qualified wine judges. After twenty-nine Competitions, consumers have come to know that.   It’s also one of the reasons the medallions appear in a similar format.  And that’s also the reason why our Award winners are listed on the website within their individual categories in alphabetic order.  However, to refine your search, use the Search Engine, second panel, right column of the Home Page at www.top100wines.com. Just enter New Zealand for Region and 2010 for Competition Year as the only criteria. Search and, category by category, you will find a list of all the NZ Award winners from the 2010 Competition. Glance down that list and you will quickly find your own wines. Click on the wine’s name and it will take you to a full write up on that wine, including the Award(s) it has won.

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BOB’S QUESTION 

Does it make any difference to screw top wines if you lay the wine down or stand it up? Being a traditionalist I would think its better laying it down but some say it makes no difference.

 

WARREN'S ANSWER

Dear Traditionalist

“The some” that say it makes no difference are correct. Wine with a natural cork closure needs to be stored lying down to keep the cork moist and swollen thereby slowing the entry of oxygen. Standing up, natural cork dries out and shrinks allowing the passage of air/oxygen and the wine quickly oxidises. The screw-caps offer an anaerobic environment for the wine so it doesn’t matter whether the bottle is standing up or resting horizontally. The screw cap’s seal doesn’t shrink – or shouldn’t.

There is more to it than that. These days, with technically trained graduate winemakers, most wine is made “in balance”, ready to be consumed early. Thirty years ago and for many decades before, the great wines were made with the jagged components unresolved, needing time, and that minute trickle of oxygen through the cork assists in creating the longer molecular structures that bring together those jagged elements. In the process, the wine developed a savoury character, greatly appreciated by the wine connoisseurs of yesteryear.

Today, with the pace of life demanding quick results – and very few wine lovers having access to the stable conditions necessary for bottle maturation - the market has changed and consumers by and large prefer to taste the natural fruit flavours of the grape. For this market, the screw cap is a winner.

That said, I wont be refitting my own cellar with shelves! It still contains many bottles with natural cork closures.

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MERLENE’S QUESTION  (Edited)

Why is the Oaked or Unoaked question on the Entry Form important for the judging process?

 

WARREN'S ANSWER

Dear Merlene, That “unoaked” question is mainly aimed at picking out the unoaked Chardonnays, which really deserve to be judged separately.  Mostly, they play quite a different role at the dining table to their oaked contemporaries. When judged separately, the unoaked Chardonnays that succeed through the First Phase judging are more likely to end up in the Finals Judging with Food in the Medium Bodied, even the Lighter Bodied Dry Whites Categories.  Most of the oaked Chardonnays direct themselves towards the Fuller Bodied Dry Whites Category. This method offers the UOCs far better potential for consideration for their complementary role with food.  It also has some relevance with the SBs and the Semillons and even the Roses.  But in those cases, it’s simply a minor item of additional info we can offer the Judges. Wouldn’t warrant a separate Judging Category.  Hard to explain this in an Entry Form!  All this assumes that food/wine matching by keen students of wine is mostly done according to the palate weight of the dish and the palate weight of the potential wines that could be chosen to complement/accompany it, as opposed to the possible varietal nuances of the wine alone.  Once the desired palate weight has been decided, then the varietal Award winners within that Style Category offer the opportunity for the fine tuning.  In this way, we offer consumers a better chance to avoid the “hit or miss” approach of choices simply based on varietal Award winners.  That’s a fundamental difference.  Most wine shows are judging wine purely and simply as a beverage.  We are looking to find wines that will fill a meaningful gastronomic role in heightening the dining experience.  Wine for the people!  If it is “right” for the dish, and the company, doesn’t matter if it cost $15.00 or $150 per bottle.  Who cares about the label – or the price?  In each Style Category, you will find big bottle-price differentials. And from our website, if further information is needed, you can email or speak to the winery directly!  Was it good in complementing the food?  That’s the test.  And that’s the service we offer.  That said, I applaud your own “attention to detail”!

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BELINDA’S QUESTION (Edited)
Your online entry form only allows for two varieties per wine to be shown.  Could you remedy this, please?  

Belinda, South Australia

 

WARREN'S ANSWER

Dear Belinda,  Regarding the On Line Entry Form (OLEF), the two predominant varieties of any particular entry are all we require.  That is sufficient for us to categorise  the wines for the First Phase judging.  If one variety comprises 50% or more of the blend, say it was Grenache, then it is judged with other Grenache blends. If no one variety exceeds 49% of the blend, that wine is judged in a catch all category called Other Reds.  Within the Other Reds Category, the judges are made aware of the wine’s two major component varieties and similar blends are grouped together - within the Category.  Then, in this Wines for Food Competition, wines that progress from the first phase judging are re-categorised, blind, by the judges themselves into palate-weight groups.  With some exceptions, regardless of variety, say, the Fuller Bodied Dry Reds are grouped into one class.  That’s the only way we can offer a suitable food dish for the Finals judging.  A dish selected for the Fuller Bodied Dry Reds will be much more flavourful and robust, of course.

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ROBIN'S QUESTION - (Edited)
I would like to ask you about the Di Fabio Estate 1995 Bush Vine Shiraz. I understand this was a Blue-Gold Award winner in the Sydney International Wine Competition. I have a 3 litre bottle of this wine. Do you think it is time to open it? Thank you. Robin, from Auburn, New South Wales.

WARREN'S ANSWER

Dear Robin, RE DI FABIO ESTATE MCLAREN VALE BUSH VINE SHIRAZ 1995

I certainly think it will open very well now. And I hope, for a suitable occasion, for up to 24 guests x 125 mls each. This is no mere BBQ wine! It won its SIWC Award in the 1998 Competition where the Judges classified it in the Lighter Bodied Dry Red Table Wines Category and judged it in the Finals alongside Quails Breasts en Chemise, Double Cream Game Bird Reduction Sauce with Chives. I don't have them in electronic form but if you can let me have a fax number, I can fax you the Judges' comments – and even the recipe for the Quails Breasts. Even back then, notwithstanding the extensive oak treatment it had received, with its rich, old vines fruit, most of the Judges thought it was in balance and already an excellent accompaniment for the food. I note your bottle is a double magnum. Wine in large format bottles tend to develop more slowly. But this wine is already fourteen years old. Yes, it should open beautifully. Lucky guests! Warren

ROBIN REPLIES

Yes, it will be opened on a very special occasion, and I shall give you some feedback. Thank you again. Robin.

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ANNA'S QUESTIONS - (Edited)
Which wine fairs are the ones that should be entered, the most renowned, both overseas and locally? What are the up and coming grape varieties, the trends? Who starts these trends – the Europeans, Americans, the Aussies? How can we keep one step ahead of the others? Anna. Adelaide, South Australia

WARREN'S ANSWERS

Dear Anna,  Am flattered that you think I may be able to answer your rather searching questions! No futurist, all I can offer are some biased, personal opinions, printed in red below. (Your questions are in their original form.) Best wishes, Warren

[Q1] Which wine fairs are the ones that should be entered, most renowned, overseas and locally?

Wine producers enter their wines into wine shows for different reasons. Assuming you are not after technical, winemaker advice from your winemaking mentors and peers, but rather the wine show awards that make a difference in the market place, the best people to ask are the consumers.

Consumers are the ones that are swayed to purchase - or otherwise – because a wine has won an award at a wine show – or a particular wine show. Respect for a wine show's awards, ideally, will depend on the consumers previous experience with awards bestowed by that particular show.

Difficult, if not impossible, for you as an individual grower, to reach a large enough cross section of consumers to glean any meaningful direction from such a quest. But the retailers and sommeliers offer a more manageable electorate, for they are the conduit between grower/producer and consumer.

A well researched professional questionnaire to a significant sample of retailers, at all levels, from the village liquor/beer shop to the smallmaker and imported wines specialist retailer, to the buyers for the national liquor chains could reveal some interesting statistics about "Which wine fairs are the ONES that should be entered".

Some wineries budget a fixed percentage of gross income for these kind of analyses of their product and for marketing purposes. That is, a budget sufficient to trial entries into several wine shows. For example, Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC) judges its entrant finalists with food and, in the Finals judging, wines of similar palate weight are judged together. This system favours wines which are balanced and harmonious but which might not do so well in a long varietal line up, where wines with more aggressive characters are more likely to stand out.

Bear in mind, these days, most wine purchases are not cellared, but opened immediately, to hopefully, be enjoyed immediately.

My impressions are, and this is where the biased opinion kicks in, the London based International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) is probably the most highly respected international wine show. Quiet different to ours (you can't change the world in a day), it is the oldest international wine competition in the UK, this year celebrating its 40th anniversary, with a lot to learn.. It receives over 7,000 entries from over 70 countries worldwide. The judging is done by highly qualified panels of wine professionals. It has a formal relationship with Drinks Business, an internationally distributed British trade publication, to publicise its awards, thereby securing a direct link to trade buyers, they being the first link in the distribution chain leading to the end consumer.

The rewards for success in the IWSC are potentially great, because the English wine establishment is the opinion leader for the world. But it ain't cheap. Apart from the cost of stock samples, their packaging, freight and insurance charges, the Entry Fee per entry is GBP£125.00 plus 15% VAT GBP£18.75, equals GPD£143.75. At current exchange rates, that is equivalent to AU$298.37 per entry!

Locally, here in Australia, which is the wine show whose awards make a difference in the market place? Well, of course, the Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC). What did you expect me to say? But there is some empirical evidence to support such a claim. Annually, 2 to 3 million plus of the Competition's trademark bottle medallions are ordered, in many cases, only after the award winner's distributor or retailer has demanded same. I guess that says something. Many of the bottle medallions are ordered to attach to wines sold to export markets.

And the 2009 Competition's price of entry? AU$90.00 plus 10% GST. That is, AU$99.00 per entry! A huge difference when compared with the IWSC.

Where does your prospective market lie? Within Australia? Export? Both? Your answers to these question will help determine your selection of the wine shows you may choose to enter. There is no doubt that wine shows put every phase of the birth of your wine on trial - from the selection of your vineyard site, the grape varieties you select to plant, the configuration of the plantings, the husbandry the vines enjoy, and the winemaking decisions about when to harvest, how to protect and ferment the juice, how to evolve the wine, when to bottle, when to release. Sydney International Wine Competition only accepts entries of finished, bottled wines. Once the wine is in bottle that's when the marketing decisions start. Smart label design is one thing but there's nothing like a distinctive SIWC TOP 1OO/Blue-Gold bottle medallion to catch the eye of the wine buyer.

[Q2] Up and coming varieties here and overseas, the trends?

In the Introduction to her book "Vines, Grapes and Wines – A Wine Drinker's Guide to Grape Varieties" Jancis Robinson MW says:

An inspection of the vine types grown internationally has thrown up a worryingly high number of varieties capable of producing good quality wines with real character which have effectively become endangered species, This applies particularly to some of the more traditional varieties of Portugal, Spain and Italy – just a few obvious examples being Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho, Aglianico, Barbarossa, Greco.

And that is just the beginning of the grape variety alphabet!

There are readily available Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation (AWBC) stats about which grape varieties are being planted in Australia and which varieties are being rooted out. Vitis Vinifera varieties from the Mediterranean region, and particularly from France, currently dominate our vineyards. Seems to me, the new plantings favour Italian and, to a lesser extent, Spanish varietals. Malbec, originally from France, but now the definitive grape variety of Argentina, is joined by Carmenère in Chile. Shiraz, better known internationally as Syrah, is doing extremely well, in a food friendly style, in certain regions of New Zealand. The gate is wide open. Open your eyes.

I think the answer lies in choosing the right grape variety for your particular terroir, and concentrating on that variety to grow it and make it as perfectly as you can. In the long run, it is a mistake to try to do all things for all people. Specialise, become known as "one of the best" in your particular region for the grape varieties that suit your soil, your climate, your terroir. Robin Day, of Domaine Day at Mount Crawford, high in the hills above the Barossa Valley, is a distinguished senior winemaker/proprietor who has a special interest in this area. You could do well to consult him. www.domainday.com.au

[Q3] Who starts these trends? The Europeans, Americans, the Aussies?

The world, not even Australia, is not a single market place. It's hard to be a pioneer, to change market's preferences. And yet, seems to me, in Australia at least, it is the small makers that do that. After 28 years, SIWC has seen a remarkable change in the patterns of entries, preceding and/or reflecting market preferences. In 2001, SIWC introduced a Trophy for Rosé wines. For nine years, we exhibited the TOP 1OO wines of the SIWC in London. In 2001, I brought back from London a dozen French Rosés from all over, Alsace, Provence, Southern Rhone, Sancerre, Touraine, Bordeaux, all over. From memory, we received SIX local entries and the Judges, judging blind, didn't think much of any of them.

I said to our (then) Chairman of Judges, "That was a waste of time. I think we should scrap that Category." He said, "Stick with it. Rosés time is coming." He was right. Check this year's Total Entries. From memory, we had 60-70 entries in that Rosé Category.

It is also very noticeable that Chardonnay entries are falling, and other white varietals, in particular Pinot Gris, are rapidly rising. Take a look at the grape varieties represented, in particular, in the Medium Bodied Dry White and Medium Bodied Dry Red Categories of Award Winners 2009.

We exhibited the TOP 1OO/Blue-Gold Award winners in Sydney last Saturday. I was amazed at how the Albarino was attacked. Ten years ago, they wouldn't have touched it. But then, ten years ago, they wouldn't have touched a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, either.

Again, for a world beater, you must have the "righ terroir" for the best results from these varietals.

[Q4] How can we keep 1 step ahead of the others?

Break your follow-the-leader link-step. Strive to be different, and just be the best you can be.

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CORINNE'S QUESTION - Corinne (Hong Kong) has Several Questions (Edited)
I am a WSET Diploma student from HK currently researching international wine competitions for a study to be submitted shortly. It would be very helpful if you could provide some information on how the Sydney International Wine Competition works. I wish to cover various international wine competitions, how they work including some of their history, how they started, entry procedures, entry requirements, judges selection, how the wines are scored, procedures to ensure judge impartiality and any controlling or regulatory system for the winners as to how they use the medals for marketing. Are there any wine competition standards with which you must comply? What advantages are there in entering your competition? Is there any criticism leveled at the competition and how do you deal with same? What material do you offer the wineries when they apply to enter the competition? It would be helpful if I could receive a copy of same. Thank you very much for your help. Regards, Corinne Mui, Hong Kong.

WARREN'S ANSWER

Dear Corrine Here are some responses to your questions (in your question's original form.)

[Q1] I will cover various international wine competitions in the world and outline how their competition works including the history of the wine competition.

How does this Competition work? Refer here. History of this Competition? Refer here.

[Q2] Why this wine competition arose?

To encourage a mainly beer drinking population to think of wine intelligently as a complement to the dining table. Good water, good food, good wine, good Company. Wine, thoughtfully chosen for greater pleasure, instead of just another consciousness-altering alcoholic beverage.

[Q3] Wine entry procedures?

Most entries are received online. The 2010 Competition's Entry Form goes online June 1, 2009. Also available on our website at that time will be a downloadable 2010 Entry Form as a PDF file for those who prefer to fax/post their completed Entry Form to us. (For reference only, the now obsolete 2009 Competition's Entry Form may be reviewed here.)

[Q4] Entries selection or requirements?

As for [3], above.

[Q5] Judge selection?

Refer here.

[Q6] How the wines are scored?

Refer here.

[Q7] Any procedures in place to ensure judge impartiality?

Wine samples are presented "blind". Judges do not "conference". Each Judge's judgement of that wine stands in print alone. The Panel members are all very experienced. Rather than conformity, we encourage diversity of opinion, which you will find published here. This is to encourage wine lovers to think for themselves and not be slaves to someone else's opinion. As a former Chairman of Judges once said, "Let's face it, each person's palate is as unique as their fingerprint."

[Q8] and any controlling or regulatory system for the winners to use the medals on marketing?

Certainly. The Competition's logo is copyright. The Competition's bottle medallions are trademarked. The integrity of this Competition's awards are highly guarded.

[Q9] Any wine competition standards to be complied with?

Yes. Refer [3] above. Also, we comply with EC requirements as an EC "recognised" and approved wine competition.

[Q10] What are the advantages in entering in this wine competition?

(a) The prospect of having an international jury of impeccable credentials assess your exhibit as truly superior.

(b) Only 15% of our entries receive recognition.

(c) Compare, with the Awards meted out by many competitions where more that 60% of entrants receive "recognition".

With a cap of 2,000 entries, we are not searching for more and more entries. We do not engage inexperienced "judges" in the preliminary phases of the judging process. ±2,000 entries is as much as our highly qualified panel can reasonably assess in the 4½ days of judging for which we have them.

[Q11] (a) Any criticism leveled at the competition?

(a) Sure. "How come my wine won double gold in the Block Busters Bullaburra Wine Show and here, we don't get a mention?"

(b) any recommended solution to solve the problems?

(b) Education

[Q12] Do you have any related materials for the wineries when they apply to enter this competition?

Refer [3] above.

Corrine; I should add something to my answer to [3] above. No matter what their training, it is a fallacy to assume a Panel of fourteen highly qualified and experienced judges will ever have a single voice about any particular wine. To force them with a shoehorn into such a singular judgement would be a huge injustice to any wine, and the consumer. That is why, on www.top100wines.com we publish the full range of judges' opinions about that award winning wine. The fact that it is an Award winner means, in aggregate, the judges' points placed it there. But hardly ever, did every judge agree. That is the nature of the human palate.

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STACY'S QUESTION – HOW DID THE COMPETITION EVOLVE? WHAT LED TO THE CREATION OF THE FIRST EVENT?
Hello. I see from reviewing your web-site that you have received questions from other WSET Diploma students recently. I was hoping you could direct me to where I might find some specific information about how your wine competition evolved. What led to the creation of the first event? I would appreciate your assistance to help me complete the research for my paper. Thanks! Stacy Breuers NJ USA

WARREN'S ANSWER

Greetings Stacy, nice to hear from you, and of your pursuit of wine knowledge and qualifications.

Dare say you know of André Simon who was instrumental in introducing formal education into the London wine trade. He also founded (along with A J A Symons) what was to become the International Wine & Food Society. I founded the New South Wales Branch of the Society in 1980, which Branch was chartered in 1982.

That same year, some changes were occurring in the Australian wine scene. Boutique wineries were popping up in non-traditional regions, mostly cooler climate regions, around the country, mostly interstate, not so much in New South Wales. These were in a number of cases the hobby projects of medical practitioners who had formal science training and, thereby some better than basic understanding of wine science.

Sydney, Australia's largest wine market, was hearing snippets of news about these new-breed winemakers via a "lifestyle" journalist on "The Australian" the national broadsheet newspaper, who happened to be a member of the IWFS NSW Branch. She had the necessary contacts to these pioneering smallmakers.

And so, we organised a formal Dinner Menu with a young French Chef who was doing good things, rehearsed it, got Daniel the Chef to write brief descriptions of the five dishes and mailed it off to about ten of the Boutique winemakers and asked them to suggest complementary wines from their winery for the dishes. They all replied! Some eliminations were necessary.

The Society already had close to 300 members, many influential within the local social scene and hospitality industry. Our letter represented potential exposure in a market in which these new winemakers were hardly known. The black tie dinner was a success with several of the winemakers in attendance. It was written up in "The Australian". The following year, we received wine submissions from Boutique winemakers of whom we had never heard! Each year, it continued to expand.

This led to the International Wine & Food Society NSW Branch Smallmakers' Wine Competition.

When I retired as NSW Branch President, the Committee confirmed there was no one willing to commit to the time to continue what had become quite a time consuming, major part-time undertaking. Thousands of hours of enterprise was about to be abandoned. After some discussion with the Society, my wife and I took it over as a retirement hobby and that is how the Sydney International Wine Competition has evolved and continues (with no line of succession!).

The emphasis has always been on André Simon's philosophy that wine's principal role is at the dining table, complementing the food, be it ever so simple - or ever so grand.

"Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners." Andre Simon (1877-1970)

Best wishes with your studies. Warren Mason

STACY REPLIES

Dear Warren, I really appreciate your response to my request and your willingness to share the history with me. I find it absolutely fascinating and very motivating that you have been able to build such an exciting and successful event from your passion! It is the exact reason why I have decided to follow my passion for wine and leave my banking career behind. I will definitely share my paper with you when it is completed. Again, thank you. Stacy.

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GERARD'S QUESTION – WHAT IS A BLUE-GOLD AWARD?
Hi, I noticed a wine advertised as having won a 'Blue-Gold' medal at the show. I have not heard of this term before; what is the difference vis-a-vis a Gold Medal? Gerard, Western Australia

WARREN'S ANSWER

In symbolism, the colour blue has traditionally been associated with prestige and excellence. It derives for the term Cordon Bleu which referred to the blue ribbon worn by a particularly prestigious Order of Knights. Cordon Bleu also has a strong connection with food. That connection may have originated from the splendour of the Banquets held by the Cordon Bleu Knights.

In English speaking countries, Blue Ribbon is now the more commonly used expression. Ribbons of this colour are used to denote first place in various competitive events, including sporting competitions, at Agricultural Shows, County and State Fairs.

Sydney International Wine Competition is unique inasmuch as it is the only major, international wine show that judges wines not only in technical terms, but also as a complement to food and the dining experience.

Hence, it is appropriate to distinguish its main award with a special term to distinguish it from the awards granted by other wine competitions that judge wine purely as an alcoholic beverage.

Your query comes at an opportune time! Each year, we rewrite Competition's website to announce the new Award winners and the Judges' comments on same, but also to review and revise all (or as much as time permits) of the rest of the site's copy, as required.

On the current, 2008 site's Navigation Menu you will see a listing, "About Us" and there you will find the sub-heading "Descriptions of the Competition's Awards". We have just revised that article for the 2009 website. For the 2009 website, it will read:

Descriptions of the Competition's Awards

The Competition judges its finalists alongside appropriate food. The logistics of this feature places a limit on the number of entries we can accept and, in turn, the number of wines we can judge in the finals. First, we cap entries at 2,000 on a first-come basis. Next, we assess the wines varietally to skim off the top 20 percent - the cream of the total entry, you might say. This immediately places a high value on this Competition's awards. Not uncommonly, other wine shows offer awards to treble that percentage of their entrants.

In order to judge these finalists with food, the judges group both the majority of the white wines and the red wines into three categories of similar palate weight – lighter, medium and fuller bodied dry whites and dry reds. (There are some exceptions that are judged in their own unique Category.) This allows the Competition's Chefs to create dishes that wines of this or that palate weight might reasonably be expected to carry. For example, the lighter bodied dry whites are judged beside a light entrée style dish with natural, quite delicate flavours. In contrast, the fuller bodied dry reds are judged alongside a rich dish with concentrated, evolved flavours.

In judging the finalists, the Panel is looking at only the highest rated 20 percent of the total entry. That is to say, they are looking at a very select group of wines.

Category by Category, the Panel is looking at finalists of similar palate weight. In the first instance, they judge them purely as wine, as is done in every other wine show, wine against wine. Then the food is introduced and each wine is judged again, but this time, with the food's flavours complexing the judge's palate before the wine is tasted and a final score entered. Our judges are often surprised by the differences between their score for the wine-as-wine assessment and their score for the same wine when judged as a complement to food.

These wines have now been judged three times. The Panel's marks for their "wine as a complement to food" assessment are then aggregated and the computer determines the top 75 percent of the finalists, which is equivalent to the top 15 percent of the total entry. Some Categories traditionally score more highly than others. A rosé may be the ideal wine for a particular dish. Not much use then if the majority of the TOP 1OO wines are grouped in the Medium and Fuller Bodied Dry Reds.

The Competition does make some adjustments to ensure there are TOP 1OO wines in each Category, this to allow for the top wines in each Category to be recognised.

HIGHLY COMMENDED AWARD WINNERS - Judged with Food. These are the finalists that fall in approximately the 10.1% to 15% percentile range of the total entry.

BLUE-GOLD AWARD WINNERS – Judged with Food. These are the finalists that fall in approximately the top 10 percentile range of the total entry.

TOP 1OO WINES AWARD WINNERS - Judged with Food. As the name implies, these are the 100 highest pointed of the Blue-Gold Award winners but with aggregate scores adjusted to ensure Consumers have a choice of TOP 1OO wines in each of the Style Categories.

TROPHY WINNERS - In their several specialised areas, the Competition's 24 Trophy Winners, amongst our galaxy of vinous stars, represent the elite wines of the annual Competition. Yes, being vinous and a star, entirely possible.

ENTER EARLY - Don't miss the cut. Enter early; the On-Line Entry Form for the 2010 Competition will be uploaded no later than 1st June 2009. Subscribe to our free e-Newsletters to be kept informed. Subscribe

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BRUCE'S QUESTION - SIWC STYLE CATEGORIES.
I have wondered for sometime, what is the meaning of the various classes in which wines have been awarded medals? Could you guide me to a site or do you have a publication which explains this? Much appreciated. Bruce, Victoria, Australia

WARREN'S ANSWER - STYLE CATEGORIES AS OPPOSED TO VARIETAL CATEGORIES

Our Competition's main aim is to help people interested in eating well make a "satisfying wine choice" that will complement their food. Many of us only have one course meals so the ‘singular wine' and the ‘singular dish' reference is applicable. Of course, several "satisfying wine choices" also applies, to best complement "the several dishes", if it was for a multi-course luncheon or dinner party.

Ever notice the service people at many restaurants, want to take your wine order before you have studied the food menu? Wrong! The idea is to choose the food, ask questions until you know what to expect from the dish, then exercise some intellectual judgment about what ‘style of wine' you feel will complement your food selection. If you are unsure about the wines offered on the restaurant's wine list, tell the wine waiter what you are looking for and ask him for his/her suggestions so you can then consider their recommendations, including the prices, of the recommended wines! Wine by the glass often makes a lot of sense when you are dining a-la-carte in a restaurant and various dishes have been chosen by the several diners.

It is much easier when dining at home. Usually, the same menu applies to all diners. You as host get to decide what style of wine will best complement each of the courses and can choose accordingly. In this case, you have the Competition's website to help you choose. Once you start thinking in terms of "what style of wine will best complement" you will understand why our Competition's Style Categories are named with user friendly titles like "Lighter Bodied Dry Red Wines".

The wines in that particular Style Category will be of similar, lighter palate weight. You will know that the wines have gone through a rigorous "road test" for quality and food compatability by a Panel of international expert wine judges, that the judges themselves, by consensus, have placed the wines into that style category and, now, instead of one wine waiter's opinion, you will have the opinions of six highly experienced wine professionals to help you make your choice(s).

Which brings us to the question of Awards, both overall and within each Style Category. Within the Style Categories, we are not attempting to directly compare the Shiraz wines that may appear in the Rosé Category with the Shiraz wines that may appear in the Fuller Bodied Dry Red Wines Category.

If you are looking for a Rosé wine to complement your Carpaccio of Venison with Honey Vinaigrette, we are offering you a choice, by comparing each recommended Rosé against the other Rosé Award winners. Nothing to do with comparing Shiraz wines of diverse style.

In boxing, you wouldn't expect the fly-weights to be competing with the heavy-weights. That's unfair! Each competes within his/her given weight division. But there is still a boxing analogy in there. There is authoritative international recognition for the best "pound for pound fighter". It is quite common for a boxer from the lighter divisions to be recognised as the best "pound for pound fighter" across all divisions.

That's where our trophies for "Best White Wine of Competition", "Best Red Wine of Competition", "Reserve Champion – Runner Up to Best Wine of Competition", and "Championship Trophy, Best Wine of Competition" comes into play. These trophies go, very simply, to the wines with the highest aggregate points overall in the nominated classification.

To conclude, avoid buying wines to cellar for 5-10-20 years, only to be disappointed upon opening same down the track. That's thwart with potential disappointment. Use our www.top100wines.com individual page award winner listings for what you need next weekend, next month, this year!

And if you do maintain a cellar, balance it, so you don't just have "bold reds", but a selection of "wine styles", to meet the requirements of the lunch or dinner prepared from what happens to be in the frig, for the unexpected old friends' visit. The Wine Style Categories of the Competition's website will be a great aid to help you choose as to what to buy for your living, functional Cellar. (Wish I could be so strong.)

For more detailed info on how the Award winners are chosen, have a look at the Judging Brief for the 2008 Competition.

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BJORN'S QUESTION – DO YOU PUBLICISE THE COMPETITION'S AWARD WINNERS?
Do you promote the winners in any special way more than through your website?

Björn Carlsson, Netherlands, Diploma student, WSET London

WARREN'S ANSWER

We exhibit all the Blue-Gold Award winners prior to the Awards & Trophies Presentation Banquet. See "Extra Group Photos" here.

We also offer Public Tastings of the Blue-Gold Award Winners. For descriptions of these events, see here.

From 1984 to 2002, the "Exhibitions of the TOP 1OO Wines" of the Sydney International Wine Competition were the main means of the Competition promoting its Award winners. In Australia, we exhibited in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. In New Zealand, we exhibited in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Blenheim. We exhibited in London for nine years and, towards the end of the touring phase, in San Francisco and Frankfurt, each for two years.

With the limited amount of tasting stock we had available, the most tasters we could reach through these Public Exhibitions was ±2,000. As we entered the 21 Century, annually, the international visitors to the Competition's website were increasing and had already passed 200,000. The constant touring was physically very demanding. Clearly, the website was a far more effective medium for promoting and publicising the Competition's Award winners.

In 2002, we ceased all touring and now only exhibit the wines for Public tastings in Sydney, as described above.

Each year now, over 3 millions of the Official Bottle Medallions are affixed to bottles of the Award winning wines. Each of these medallions carries the Competition's website address. I'm sure this is one of the main reasons why the international visitors to the Competition's website has soared past the 500,000 pa mark.

Best of luck with your exam paper!

Warren

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