Posted: Sunday, 10 September 2023 17:24
From Archives (2007)- MUNDUS Vini: Judgement at Neustadt
The immigration officer at the Frankfurt airport asked me where I was headed. ‘Neustadt’, I replied . ‘But which one’, he roared. ‘you know how many we have?’ Taking a wild guess, I offered, ‘Three?!’ ‘Take another guess’, he said with a twinkle in his eyes’. With a bit of sarcasm and a bit of irritation, I said, ‘thirty?!’ He volunteered to disclose the secret number, twenty in all!
When I told him it was in Palatinate region, 100 kms south, where I was heading, at an invitation to judge a wine competition, I realised I should have said ‘Neustadt am der Weinstrasse– to attend the 7th MundusVini International Wine Competition’.
Mundus Vini is the biggest wine competition in Germany-even bigger than the Berlin International Wine Trophy, which is at least 5 years older but has only about 4000 wines. With 4925 label samples submitted this year, it is the biggest competition in the world under the tutelage of OIV- the international organisation for vines and wines based in Paris, whose membership includes most of the wine and grape producing regions of the world.( India is still not a member, though it has been invited as an observer).
Although 35 countries took part in this year’s annual event spread over two weekends of 3 days each, almost two third (3442) of the wines tasted by 247 tasters from 45 countries (India was represented for the first time) were from Germany, Italy, Spain and France. As may be expected, over a fourth (1284) were from Germany; the percentage has been steadily coming down over the years. Italy is the top exporter and this is reflected by a fifth of the samples presented (881).
The jury consists of many well known jurists, including Robert Joseph, Joel Payne ( Editor-WBI), Count John Salvi MW from Bordeaux, Dave Hughes from South Africa and Giuseppe Martelli, the chairman of Vinitaly wine competition. There are a disproportionately low number of German tasters (77). This is perhaps because the OIV rules stipulate that no more than three on a table consisting of 7 Jury members can be from the same country.
This is where the opinions differ. Says Robert Joseph, who is on the board of Mundus Vini and also Chairman of the Indian Wine Challenge which he is bringing to India in concert with IFE-India this year, ‘the jury should include more numbers from the country for which the competition is designed to help market the wines in’. If it is meant for the German market, the taste of Germans should be more predominant. ‘Why should they force the English, French or the Indian taste on the German consumer?’ he commented.
While wine competitions are like religion, he says, where no one is necessarily the best in absolute terms and the quest is always on to find the ultimate, he plans to include more Indians in the Jury for the same reasons for the Indian leg, even for the imported wines.
This year Robert has been invited to join the board of Mundus Vini, which already includes Prof. Ulrich Fischer of the Neustadt University, Edmund Diesler, president of the German Oenologists Association and, incidentally the chairman of my Jury No. 7 at the competition- part 1. Michael Hornickel, chief Taster of Meininger Verlag and Susanne Denzer, Tasting manager of Mundus Vini are the other two members of the board which she heads.
The competition is owned and conducted by the Neustadt based Meininger Publications group, perhaps the biggest and oldest group running wine publications, being run by the brother-sister team of Christoph and Andrea Meininger.
The oldest wine magazine in Germany, Weinwirtschaft was started by their great grand father in 1903. They have several other magazines encompassing wine traders, sommeliers, consumers and other trade people. These include Weinwelt, Sommelier, Fizzz and Wine Business International. The presence of at least one of their magazines in wine shops, supermarkets and restaurants helped the company receive a big number of over 2000 samples in the first year alone, says Christoph.
He gives the credit for starting the competition to Robert who has written over 25 wine books and also started the International Wine Challenge in 1984. He is currently the Editor-at-Large of WBI. ‘I went to meet him in London nine years ago to seek help in starting a couple of new magazines I was planning. And all he did was trying to persuade me to start a wine competition in Germany,’ says Christoph. ‘You have such a great portfolio and enviable reach of your magazines. An international wine competition is what you need,’ advised Robert.
And thus was born Mundus Vini seven years ago. Till date, Christoph is not part of the competition, in any way, ‘to maintain the neutrality, credibility and transparency of the competition’, he adds.
Following the norm of 30% maximum medals, including Great Gold, Gold and Silver, Suzanne Denzer manages the collection, storage and dispensing of samples which are grouped by the varietals, region and are placed in pre-defined categories like white wine with less than 4 gms sugar etc. Each category can get a maximum of 30% medals. To store the wines properly a proper cooled facility was created on 400 sq mtrs a few years ago with a capacity of about 70,000 bottles. The sample bottles are brought in two temperature controlled vans to the city hall, the venue of the competition.
The random selection and the ‘blindness’ is being followed with the utmost German efficiency. Suzanne was stumped though when I asked her how they could be sure that the sample sent by the producers is randomly picked from the production lot and not crafted specially for the competition. Of course, she requires analytical data to be submitted with each sample and judging is not done on price basis, she said, but in reality, ‘we do not expect the producers to have a criminal mind. We also check at random the data submitted with the actual sample characteristics,’ she added.
The second phase of the competition is next week-end. Commentary will follow in part-2 of this article. The results of the competition will be published on www.mundusvini.com and in a special supplement to be brought out in October, to be distributed with all their magazines.
The competition is very professionally organised and it is well worth taking part in by the Indian producers. Why? Wait for our issue next Tuesday to find out.
August 27, 2007