Let's get the apologies out of the way first. First, to Bernie Parker of Indiana's Oliver Winery, who was the fourth judge on our panel at last week's 21st annual competition. I'm afraid he had to listen to the Wine Curmudgeon bellyache more than once about the quality of the wine we were judging, which is something no one should have to put up with as often as he had to put up with it.
Second, to two wines from our group that probably deserved double golds. They were an auxerrois from Canada's Gehringer Brothers, and a sparkling wine made with frontenac gris from Four Brothers in Minnesota, and each was better made than similar wines we tasted during the best of show taste-offs. As noted here before, judging is not an exact science, and these wines reminded me of that. More, after the jump:
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough remarkable wine. Much of it was barely ordinary, and some of it should not have been entered. We had a merlot that smelled like concord, which not only is not supposed to happen, but is difficult to do.
My group, which included the esteemed Rene Chazottes and Michel Pascal, struggled for two days to make sense of what we tasted, and we often couldn't. Rene and Michel, who are among the best judges I've ever seen, had the good sense to suffer mostly in silence; I, however, had a hard time doing that.
The medal statistics reflect this. In 2011, 80 percent of the wines earned medals. This year, that number was only 74 percent. Why the quality was down is anyone's guess — poor harvests in parts of the country, more inexperienced winemakers entering the competition, or just poorly made wine. In this, it was something I saw at all of the competitions I judged this year, regardless of where the wine was from. Hopefully, this was a one-time thing, and things will be back to normal next year. Bernie Parker deserves that much.