For two different wine competitions I've had the honor of serving as judge. My first experience was at the Indy International Wine Competition. This is a world class competition with internationally acclaimed wines, world-class judges and an army of volunteers. Volunteers in white lab coats roll out wines in scores of wine glasses each of which are marked with a code. The captain of the judging team, of which there are several, communicate with a set of differently colored flags.
I recently served on the Wood County Fair homemade wine judging panel along with Mike Gregg and TWAV tasting team member Dr. J. This was my second time. The three of us judged 180 wines in a period of about three hours. It certainly is a much different setting.
At the county fairgrounds, we judged our wines in front of the winemakers. Each of us tasted through a category (combinations of red or white, sweet or dry, grape or non-grape and the novelty categories). In some cases this could be up to 14 wines. When we decided on the winner of the category, we stood up and announced the results.
For survival, you must swirl, swish in your mouth and then spit. For me, I need to swallow a bit of wine to get the full effect. In most cases this is a micro-sip to confirm the impressions of smell and taste.
Some recalibration is necessary, because you are not comparing premier cru from Bordeaux. These wines can be quite good, but they are typically wines you pair with a sunny afternoon on the patio and not tuxedos and caviar.
In the non-grape category, I had the chance to taste wines made from cherries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red and black raspberries, and elderberries. One of the very best combinations is strawberry and rhubarb.
The winemakers at the Wood County fair really have a way with blush wines. They were crisp and refreshing and the colors were a delight to the eye.
After we had chosen the winners in each category, we then moved to a “taste-off” to select the best red, the best white and the best of show. The best of show went to a sparkling blueberry wine. Darn right it was good!
The winemakers and audience then had a chance to sample the entries during a reception. This is a great way to end a wine competition.
My post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the novelty wines. The category included two jalapeno wines and a Pina Colada wine. I applaud the creativity, but won’t be stocking up on them anytime soon.