Nine judges in total, one Executive Director, a local restaurant sommelier, professional photographer and attentive servers = our first meeting in Cohiba Room three at the Tropicana Las Vegas, while avoiding rooms one and two as they held all of the wine that we were very anxious to judge…blind.
Welcome to the inaugural Global Wine Awards in Las Vegas!
Deborah Parker Wong (Tasting Panel, Somm Journal and the Clever Root. See all of the judges bios here) was consulted by Exec. Dir. Eddie Rivkin and then had our entire preliminary round set up to begin the first day. On the second day we would do the “sweepstakes” round, where we would decide which of the Gold medal awarded wines would be our choice for any Double Golds, Best of Show and Judge’s Choice of best overall.
But let me back up to explain how we chose which wines to medal to begin with, and then I’ll return to our judging and sweepstakes.
For nine judges it was decided that we would begin with three panels of three. Within those panels we would select a leader and a note taker. Wines were served to us in “flights” with corresponding sheets that read titles such as Domestic Merlot, Spanish Reds or Wine Made From Fruit – no price points were given. On these sheets each wine was given a four-digit number instead of a name that corresponded with a number written on each glass. We would do one or more flights at a time, as some flights only had less than six or so wines while others had nearly a dozen.
Every judge is different in how they then proceed. Most will sniff each one in the flight and then go back to the start for a sample, spit and make some notes. I didn’t feel confident in being able to recall a sample 12 or so glasses before so I opted to do each at once: sniff, swirl, sniff again, note what I liked in the aroma, sample, hold in my mouth long enough to get the general gist of the wine, expectorate, make some slight notes and select a medal.
This was the cheat sheet (most) of us kept at hand in deciding on a medal:
Anything less than 80 would be a “no medal” wine and usually had a fatal flaw.
80-84 for Bronze
85-89 for Silver
96-100 Double Gold
After your panel is done with the flight they then, each taking a turn to start, announce the medal. You may have three people that completely agree, or as is most often the case, don’t. So while I may say Silver minus (which borders on Bronze) the other panelists may say Silver plus and Gold. In one panel the person with the highest medal would then try to convince the others to raise their scores based on the merits they found. Roger Bohmrich MW, one of the judges, puts it this way: “With a panel of qualified tasters, it’s somewhat rare to have one judge say Gold and another No Medal, though it can happen. The more common challenge is to decide whether to elevate a Silver plus into Gold territory.” On another panel the three scores were just averaged out and a numerical score was calculated. (We were rotated to a different panel halfway through.) Most times, in either instance we would taste again. Have I lost you yet? LOL. Hang in there.
By the end of the first day, we had each sampled 90-100 wines. We were then invited out by Exec. Director Eddie Rivkin for a lovely meal at Marche Bacchus. And prepare ourselves for the next day, which would be sweepstakes:
In sweeps all of the wine judges would have an opportunity to sample all of the wines we had nominated for Gold medals. We would then note our favorites, and by a showing of hands, decide which the majority agreed would be awarded with Double Golds and then narrow down again to award, which were Best of Show. Instead of breaking into our panels we sit together for sweeps.
Stay tuned, the next time I write about the Global Wine Awards I hope to be able to disclose the medal winners!
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com