Wine Judging and Being Judged 2012

September 3, 2012

Earlier in August, I labored over picking out some of my cider and wine to go to the Clark County Fair (last year’s blog post). In the end, I picked out one cider, a dry blackberry wine, and a lime-mint wine.

My husband Burtle and I debated over even entering into the event. To him, he doesn’t want people to tell him if it is good or not. He wants his peers to tell him how to correct the flaws or how to improve things. He is very content sitting at home drinking his stuff or taking it to poker parties. I, on the other hand, kind of want the idea if people like what I make and potentially have a marketable product. Also, I am a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, who argues that contests like this help promote your name and product, even if you are an amateur.

However, after the event, I kind of wonder if Burtle was right. At the judging event, we were told to judge each wine as we thought the ideal version of that style would be. This becomes very subjective. I judged a very good three berry wine that my teammates deducted a lot of points because it wasn’t clear. Most red wines aren’t clear, and I think of blackberry as sometimes being a red wine alternative, so I thought this was incorrect. Also, after the judging, I tried a rhubarb wine that scored quite high. This was the first rhubarb wine that actually tasted like rhubarb to me, so I could see why it scored high (ironic, because wine doesn’t taste like grapes, and yet fruit wines are so often held to the standard of tasting like the fruit). But was this wine really something I would drink? No. So this judging can show high quality, but may not show high likeness. I did try to judge sort of by what I like while I tried to turn against what I might or might not be biased about (such as sweetness). However, the rest of my team turned away from all that. They would rate things high that they didn’t like, and I had to wonder how. Taste was like 6 points, but if it looked pretty and smelled pretty, that was 7 points, and that would affect their final 3 points in the overall opinion.

So at the end of the day, my blackberry wine did well. My cider ran into issues because it didn’t have enough apple as always (on one hand, it shouldn’t, but on the other, give the customer what they want). And my mint-lime wine had labeling problems. I had tried to carbonate it, and I thought it didn’t do that, so I labeled the beer bottle as being uncarbonated, only that bottle did carb, and so I was docked points.

But did I really get what I wanted out of the event? I always have fun judging, but was my goals met by being judged myself? I mean, I entered to find out if people would buy my product, but did I really find that out? Instead, I got the usual “not enough apple” which near impossible to correct out. I didn’t actually learn if people would buy it. Was my blackberry wine that did well like that rhubarb wine that really wasn’t something I would drink? I don’t have the answers I seek, and instead I’m left with frustrating comments from people who should know better. “Not enough apple,” the grape winemaker told me. Hmph.

Looking back at last year, I was unhappy with the way things turned out then, too, though the scoring on my cider ended up at 10, so I do feel vindicated on that. I did express that I should try entering a bottle in both the wine and beer competition, but logistics of the competition would not have allowed me my experiment this year. I don’t know – it might be time for me to stop entering, or form my own competition.

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3 Responses to “Wine Judging and Being Judged 2012”

  1. David Says:

    Forming your own competition, or doing a tasting party sounds like a good idea to me. Then again, I suppose those might be difficult things to do with the assorted liquor laws… Still might be worth trying, as the market research could certainly help your ability to grow a business if you go that route.


    • I’ve been observing something for awhile now, where the Cider Workshop (Brits) say what is easiest and best to make, but the public wants something “inferior” in method, and it just rakes them (like Bud vs craft beer). So they battle to educate the public to bring them over (like Bud vs craft beer). At what point to do sigh and give up, and at what point do you keep your integrity? That is kind of what this competition issue is boiling down to.

      • Lena Says:

        I think that apple ciders are really tough to compare no matter what. Just think about the different styles you get in England vs. France vs. here. Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes dry, sometimes barnyard, sometimes crisp and light and refreshing but hardly “apple” at all. And here we’re limited to what your grocer or liquor store buyer is buying…which could match with what you want…or not at all…


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