The folks at the New York Cork Report had a recent posting about their position on wine competitions the other day. It's been a long time since I've read something from someone in our industry that has fired me up so much in a good way. Here's the link to the article. Please read it now before going on.....
My takeaway from this is that they have opened their eyes and had the guts to put out publicly what most of us--meaning me and maybe a couple others--have been thinking and saying for years!
Full disclosure: Allegro does not enter medal competitions. We do enter the local Pennsylvania Wine Society Tasting since a lot of the members are our customers. Other than that, no other competitions.
Before me, John and Tim Crouch (founders of Allegro) did enter competitions for a while, but even they soured on them, recognizing them for being thinly-veiled games of chance.
The main point of the article that got me was when they pointed out the Emperor's new clothes: that there should be transparency and clarity in the wine business. And, it seems, hardly anyone knows what medals are worth. Or do they? I know who knows.....the wine competitions. They are worth entry fees to keep the competitions in business. But for the consumer or the media there is no transparency nor clarity on what these competitions actually accomplish.
As someone who has judged thousands of wine, I can't begin to tell you how subjective a process it it. Do I even like the wine? Is it flawed? Is it winemaking or grape-growing that made it this way? It is my style? Did I just have chocolate for dessert? Did I brush my teeth? Are my allergies bothering me? Did I drink too much last night? Do I need to impress the judge across from me? Is he a pompous ass? Am I a pompous ass for thinking this? All these questions play into it.
(As an aside, I think wine critics are of a different ilk, but that's for a different post.)
Bottom-line, wineries like competitions because it's easy to get medals and medals sell wine because no one truly knows what a medal is worth. It's a fake outside endorsement. Thanks, New York Cork Report, for calling it like it is.
Lastly, for those of you who don't get it, I'll be starting my own wine competition soon. Feel free to send me 3 bottles of your wine along with a $50 entry fee. Tell me the price of your commercially-available wine, and I will send you correspondingly-colored medals. $0 to $10 gets no medal, $11 to $15 gets bronze, $16 to $20 gets silver, and $21 and up gets gold.
In other words let the market determine the quality. It's the core value that our country was founded on.