Last Friday, I — and 17 other unwary souls — got a bit plastered.
That’s what happens when you sit down and taste 75 wines each in five hours. We were all judges for the Sommelier India Wine Competition, which was held on November 19-20, 2009, at the ITC Grand Central hotel in Mumbai. No, we weren’t drinking the wines (that would have had all of us reeling by the fourth glass, and under the table by the eighth) — but even if one spits, something does get imbibed. So, by the end of the day, one had 18, quite merry wine tasters!
The panel included personalities like Rahul Akerkar (Indigo restaurant), Abhay Kewadkar (head of UB’s wine business), Sanjay Menon (the second-largest wine importer in India), Vir Sanghvi (no introduction needed) and Magandeep Singh (wine/food consultant and TV presenter) in addition to some very competent tasters from the hospitality business. The event was organised by Sommelier India magazine, whose editor Reva Singh had garnered the services of the world-famous wine expert Steven Spurrier (remember “Judgment of Paris, 1976”?) to chair the event.
In all, we tasted 411 different wines from 124 different wineries, all blind, in three different categories including Indian, New World and Old World, with each flight of wines (anywhere from four to eight samples) being arranged by the type of grape. The awards, announced at a gala dinner at the Grand Central on November 20, 2009, consisted of gold, silver and bronze medals and also included a “commended” category.
Among Indian wines, gold medals were awarded to Four Season’s Viognier 2009, Nine Hills’ Shiraz 2008 and the York Reserve Shiraz 2008; 15 imported wines got gold, including three medals, which were awared to Montes wines (Chile) as well as a lone Australian wine: Tapestry McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, which I’ve written about earlier.
Another 59 wines got silver, 96 fetched bronze, while 47 were “commended” — too many to list, but you can view the complete list at www.siwc.in.
Why do companies enter their wines in such competitions? Is the judging fair? What purpose is it to an average wine aficionado?
Wine competitions are an invaluable calibration for winemakers aspiring to position their respective wines on a quality platform — since every winery thinks that its own product is the best, it requires experts to say which wines are better than others.
Two, the number of wine labels available on retail shelves and in wine lists is so large that most consumers — and even the trade — get confused, even intimidated by the choice and prefer to seek expert guidance to filter their choices. Indeed, internationally the number of new wines available every year are in their thousands — Wine Spectator judged over 17,000 wines to arrive at its “Top 100 Wines of 2009” list! Try the wines which have won medals, you will not be disappointed.
To be credible, a wine competition has to be totally objective and fair. I think SIWC has set a benchmark in the way the competition is organised and conducted in India.
Wines I’ve been drinking: Some awesome Barolos and some terrific Grenache/ Syrah blends — since they were all tasted blind, can only guess at the labels. What a job — it’s more difficult than you think, but we’ll drink to that anyway.