How to win a wine show medal

Published by Tamara Harrison - 23rd Sep 2019

Have you ever wondered what winemaker Jen Pfeiffer gets up to in her spare time? You wouldn’t believe it, but… it’s still wine!

Jen is actually heavily involved in the Rutherglen Wine Show as a committee member, judge, and host to visiting judges from Australia and abroad. Rutherglen Wine Show is possibly the longest-running wine show in Australia, this being the 131st year of competition.

For those of you who have ever wondered how hard it is to get one of those little gold medals on a wine bottle, keep on reading for Jen explanation!

A wine show is made up of a series of panels, each containing one panel chair (senior judge with a lot of experience), two judges and either two or three associate judges (judges in training).

Each panel judges certain classes within the show. A class is a group of wines that can be benchmarked against each other…eg 2018 Shiraz; 2019 Riesling; 2016 and older Cabernet-based blends.

The panel will all judge the same class at the one time. The wines are poured all at the same time (in the absence of the judging panel) and are presented in unmarked glasses on a table or bench with an exhibit number attached to them. The judges will only know the class they are judging (eg 2018 Shiraz) and nothing else…..the wines are served blind to eliminate any potential bias.

The panel chair will give an overview of the class and then assign starting positions to each judge and associate (no one starts on the same wine – some judges judge backward, others start in the middle, etc, etc.). The judging of the wine then takes place without any consultation between judges.

Once the judging is complete, the judges come together to discuss each wine and come up with an agreed score and potentially medal to assign to each wine.

Any wine that has been given a gold medal award by at least one judge, will come back in a re-randomized format against all the other potential golds and will be re-judged to determine the suitability of that wine for a gold, a silver or a bronze award. Again, this is done completely blind to ensure there are no biases. The top award-winning wines will be shown to the Chair of Judges, who will sign off on the result.

It is typical in the Australian Wine Show system to judge around 120 wines per day (in approximately 8-10 hours of judging). While that is a lot of wine to taste, rest assured we do not drink any of the samples….we are in fact professional spitters, and drink a lot of water and eat a lot of salty biscuits, olives and cheese in between classes to ensure our palates remain fresh and focused.

I am exceptionally proud of the Rutherglen Wine Show, as it is a great celebration of my home region and our unique wine styles. Rutherglen is regarded as the home of fortified wines in Australia, and as one of the great fortified wine-producing regions in the world. It is wonderful to show off these amazing wines to our visiting judges, as well as the exceptionally high standard of wines across the sparkling and table wine categories as well.

Cheers, and rock it like a redhead, Jen.


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