What value Gold?

November 22nd, 2006 | Uncategorized

I have to admit that I have mixed views about the true value of wine competitions, not because we don’t mind winning the occassional gong, but more because the award system itself is often wide open to abuse. I will explain…..

From experience I believe that it is very often the most obvious, young, full-bodied and over-extracted wines that are put forward to win awards. In the case of white wines this can be the wine that is laced with new oak, or one that perhaps retains a suggestion of residual sugar. Entries with any degree of structure, elegance, complexity or even bottle-age can quite easily be lost or overpowered simply because they are not fully understood, or their true underlying potential is not recognised. Of course these more ‘commercial’ styles have their place in educating the novice wine consumer, but on the other hand there should always be space for some award winning wines of subtlety and refinement too.

My second concern is that wine competitions have now become very big business – 1,000’s of wines submitted, with each bottle commanding a substantial entry fee, that can, in some cases, result in a generous profit for the organisers. At times, it must be said, there has also been an “over generous” quota of medals and certificates awarded (regardless of overall quality), simply to keep producers satisfied, justify the fee, and promote continued support.

Finally, there is the problem of the ‘doctored sample’……. Organisers of wine competitions invite producers to send their samples, and it is only human nature that a cellar would wish to submit their very best bottle. This being the case, some unscrupulous wine makers reserve a special tank or barrel of wine that is used exclusively for this purpose, and has nothing to do with the quality of the wine that ends up in your local wine shop. In this way, not only are the judges duped, but also the poor consumer is being cheated out of his bottle of the genuine award winning wine.

In saying all this I must emphasise that this is not sour grapes (pardon the pun), as we have been lucky enough to win our fair share of awards over the years. I guess that what I am trying to suggest is that medals and certificates can be misleading, and do not necessarily guarantee consistent or even outstanding quality.

I can assure you that an odd gold medal will not make our own wine taste any better than it already does! For us at least a great bottle at a reasonable price means so much more.

Footnote: By coincidence this article from the New Zealand Herald was posted on 2nd December 2006, about 10 days after I made this entry.

Another installment from the McCarthy’s soap box series

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