And The Award Goes To…
Ah, awards season. SAG awards, Grammys, Golden Globes, the Academy Awards- it’s that time of year when all of the entertainment world comes out to honor the best of the best in movies, music, t.v. This, along with the results from the first competition of 2015 we entered (the SF Chronicle Wine Competition) made me think that the process of entering wines into competitions and submitting wines for review would make for a timely post. However, just like this year’s awards season, there can be a bit of controversy surrounding the whole issue, so I’m going to tread lightly on this topic and discuss it in the most general of terms. Just call me Switzerland.
First off, why submit wines to competitions, magazines, and increasingly, bloggers, for review? Why, for the PR of course! Awards from competitions and positive reviews from highly regarded wine magazines and wine bloggers help wineries, particularly the smaller, less well-known ones (ahem), gain recognition as well as drive sales. Submitting wine to a competition is great because anyone can submit as many wines as they would like (or can afford- gotta pay to play); the downside is the general public does not typically see the results of the competitions. Conversely, submitting a wine for review to a magazine such as the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, or Wine Advocate or to a well-known wine-blogger, will give the wine more exposure to subscribers and even casual readers, but magazines and bloggers won’t necessarily review the wines sent to them. As to why they don’t review all wine sent to them…here is where I step back from the ledge of controversy and leave it with “having their own criteria”. If the wine is reviewed, getting a good rating- generally the big magazines use a 100 point rating (but there are other rating scales, particularly in the blogosphere) and/or a special award is PR gold.
As for competitions- there are literally hundreds of wine competitions out there, ranging from very well-known competitions like the SF Chronicle Wine Competition to smaller, local competitions, like you might find at a county fair. Naggiar generally enters 4-5 wine competitions a year- the SF Chronicle Wine Competition, The LA International Wine Competition, and the SF International Wine Competition are the mainstays that we enter from year to year. Most of our wines are entered into at least one of these competitions every year and not every wine is entered into every competition. As for how these competitions work- there are numerous categories that are also broken down into price ranges as well. For example, you can have a $40 Cabernet Sauvignon from Texas tasted against a $40 Cab from Sonoma against a $40 Cab from Sonoma, and so on. More obscure varietals tend to be lumped into one category- like any Tempranillo, regardless of price point, will be tasted against one another. All wines are tasted blind and evaluated on the very things that the average wine drinker looks for in their glass- color, aroma, mouth-feel, taste, along with whether the wine is varietally correct. Of course, it goes without saying that the wine must be technically sound to begin with. Within the categories, the wines may then be awarded a medal. Along with the standard gold, silver, and bronze, there can be double gold, platinum, best in class, even a best in show (though I automatically think Westminster Kennel Club when I hear that).
Alas, wine competitions are like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re gonna get. While those involved in wine judging are all wine professionals of some capacity, wine appreciation and tasting is inherently very subjective. This means that occasionally, the same wine can get two different medals in two different competitions, though generally if a wine gets a particular award in one competition, it will get the same award in any other competition it is entered into. Variety is the spice of life. Ok, enough with the culinary euphemisms.
As for our personal awards season, our gold medal winners for the 2015 SF Chronicle Wine Competition are our 2011 La Boheme and our 2011 Le Grand Pere. Our La Boheme is a Bordeaux blend and Le Grand Pere is a Rhone blend- pick your poison.
So what do you think about wine competitions? Does having a medal from a competition affect your decision in buying a certain wine?