Category:Wine competitions

Wine competitions and wine scores

wine scoresThe Wine Curmudgeon’s opinions of wine scores are well known: Get a rope. So what would happen when I had to judge a wine competition that required judges to use scores?

The competition, the Critics Challenge in San Diego, was its usual enjoyable self, featuring wine I usually don’t get to drink as well as some top quality cheap wine. The scores? Meh. More, after the jump (plus some of the best wine I tasted):


Caveats first: The competition pays judges a $500 honorarium and reimburses expenses, and the weather in San Diego is always so much better than it is in Dallas that I’d do it just for the 70-degree temperatures.

But are those good enough reasons to give scores, considering how I feel about them? Probably not. I agreed to judge for two reasons: First, because if you’re going to criticize something, you should do it at least once, and second, because I have tremendous respect for competition impresario Robert Whitley. If Robert wants to do scores, then I’m willing to try it.

Having said that, the scoring process was underwhelming. In years past, we gave wines a silver, gold, or platinum medal; this year, we added scores to those awards. I’m still trying to figure out the difference between a silver medal wine with 87 points and one with 89 points, even though my judging partner, Linda Murphy, did her best to explain it to me. A silver is a silver is a silver, and I don’t understand why two points makes a difference. Or how Linda and I could give the same wine the same medal, but different points. How could one of us like the wine 2.2 percent more than the other (the difference between an 87 silver and an 89 silver)?

Still, there were some terrific wines entered:

? The 2013 Giesen Riesling from New Zealand ($15) was named best in class, an excellent example of the tremendous value available in New Zealand riesling.

? Linda and I agreed that the Yorkville Cellars 2012 Carmenere ($38) was platinum worthy, and it earned best in class honors. Carmenere can be off-putting, unripe and tannic, but this was an intriguing, rich, and earthy effort, with dark fruit and complex finish.

? I’ve been lucky enough to taste sparkling wine from Dr. Konstantin Frank in upstate New York three times since last fall, and each time it has been sensational. The 2007 Chateau Frank Brut ($25) won best of class, and the non-vintage rose ($21) grabbed a silver.

? The 2012 Nottage Hill Chardonnay from Australia’s Hardys ($13) won a platinum, which wasn’t surprising. Aussie chardonnay can often be $10 Hall of Fame quality; the catch, usually, is that the wines vary greatly from vintage to vintage, and what was tasty one year isn’t the next.

? A non-vintage red blend, called Kitchen Sink ($10), won a silver. It’s fruity, but well-made, and I’ve always enjoyed the Kitchen Sink white blend.

Dallas Morning News TexSom Wine Competition 2014

Dallas Morning News TexSom Wine Competition 2014The best piece of advice I ever got about wine came shortly after I started doing this, and from two different people (both well known for their irascibility). “The minute you think you know everything about wine,” each told me, “go do something else. Because as soon as you think that, you’re not capable of being any good at wine.”

In other words, shut up and listen to people who know more than you do, something I’ve tried to do as often as possible for the past 20 years. I had an excellent opportunity to do it again on Monday and Tuesday when I judged the 30th annual Dallas Morning News TexSom Wine Competition. Regular visitors here know how I feel about high-alcohol, over-ripe, and over-oaked wines. So what did I get to judge? Lots of high alcohol, over-ripe, and overoaked wines — 41 zinfandels from Lodi, Dry Creek, and Napa in California among 185 wines over the two days . And you know what? I liked some of them, and even gave two gold medals.

More, after the jump:

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The Two-buck Chuck gold medal fallout

The Two-buck Chuck gold medal falloutTwo-Buck Chuck, the most notorious cheap wine of all, won three gold medals at a California wine competition last week, and the cyber-ether went wild. One member of the Winestream Media tweeted that the result proved that state fair wine competitions were worthless. Another left a comment on a blog, which had defended the medals, taking exception and implying that the competition had been rigged. And then there was this from a winemaker: ?Makes one wonder what the ?experts ? are drinking or smoking. ?

All of which demonstrated the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorite adage about wine: That people who claim to be experts don ?t have to taste a wine to know that it isn ?t any good. More, after the jump:

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Critics Challenge 2013

Critics Challenge 2013Two things stand out after judging the 10th annual version of this competition last weekend: First, that local wine has come a long way when it enters — let alone does well at — a top-notch California event like this. Second, that the challenge’s unique format is not only a tremendous amount of fun, but offers one possible solution for all of the handwringing about inconsistent competition judging and results.

More, after the jump:

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Lone Star International Wine Competition 2013

We saw the future of Texas wine during one of the championship flights at the 30th annual competition this week, where there wasn ?t a chardonnay in sight. The five wines competing for best white from Texas were all outstanding, and each was worthy of winning — two Rhone blends, a viognier, a roussanne, and an albarino.

Can I write, finally and after 20 years, that Texas producers and growers have figured this thing out? More, after the jump:

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2013 Colorado Governor’s Cup/AWS Competition

This year has been nothing short of a revelation for regional wine. First, there was the stunning quality of wines from the other 47 states in The Dallas Morning News and TexSom competition. Then, there was Maryland ?s winning effort at this year ?s Drink Local Wine conference.

Last weekend, there was Colorado ?s exceptional performance at the annual Governor ?s Cup. I tasted 100 wines, and almost none of them, to paraphrase one of the judges, was a drain dumper. It was easily the best showing from Colorado in the decade or so I have judged its wines.

The official results won ?t be released for a month or so, so I don ?t know the names of the winning wines (though I will update later). But there were still many highlights, which come after the jump:

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The Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition 2013

Midway during the second day of judging at this year ?s event, one of the other judges smiled at me and said, ?This must make you feel good. ?

And it did. My panel was judging red wines from the United States made in places that weren ?t California, Oregon, and Washington. And they had been ? dare I say? ? spectacular. We gave five silvers and a gold; the day before, we had awarded gold medals to chardonnays from Idaho’s Pend d’Oreille and Michigan.

The other judge, Paul Lukacs of Baltimore, knew about my work with DrinkLocalWine and my enthusiasm for regional producers. And, as someone who judges regularly, he also knew the quality of these wines can be uneven. And while we had some clunkers during the two-day event (we judged all regional wine), the overall quality was as good ? if not better ? than at any competition I have judged. There was even a nifty red from South Dakota’s Belle Joli made with the marquette grape. More, after the jump:

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