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Concours Mondial de Bruxelles opens in Slovakian Capital

Posted: Saturday, 11 May 2013 10:51

Concours Mondial de Bruxelles opens in Slovakian Capital

May 11: The 20th edition of the 3-day international roving wine competition, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, was inaugurated at the Incheba Expo in Bratislava by Mr. Robert Fico, where over 8200 wine samples from 50 countries are to be tasted by over 300 judges from 40 countries, writes Subhash Arora who is judging for the fifth consecutive year

Click For Large ViewEvery year in May one city in a European country starts buzzing with excitement as over 300 wine experts from 40 countries and truck-loads of wine bottles containing over 8000 samples descend on the city to taste and judge for medals to be awarded to the wines submitted from around 50 countries. Hotels, restaurants and wineries keenly look forward to this rather unique event.

Welcome to Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, now in its 20th year, being held in Bratislava, the Capital of Slovakia, (not to be confused with Slovenia, a former State of Yugoslavia, bordering North-eastern Italy) the latter half of erstwhile Czechoslovakia.

The competition was not always roving. Started in 1994 by Louis Havaux and later passed on to his son Baudoin Havaux, it was always held in Belgium. In 2006, it decided to move out for the first time, to Lisbon. From there to Maastricht, Bordeaux, Valencia, Palermo, Luxemburg and this year it’s being held in Bratislava. Next year’s venue is the little secret that will be announced on Sunday.

Slovakia is a wine producing country with per capita consumption of 13 liters, according to the Agriculture Minister who addressed the judges briefly. But what was more significant was that the Prime Minister Roberto Fico (pronounced as Fee-ts-o) took time out to come and inaugurate the competition and speak briefly. Not only did he show his pleasure on Slovakian Capital Bratislava hosting the competition, he was also hopeful that around 230 samples submitted by the national producers will bag several more medals. Last year, there were 61 entries and 17 had won medals-4 Golds and 13 Silvers.

The medals' nomenclature is slightly different in this competition which does not have any Bronze medals or Recommendations. Although the universal 100-point scale is used for giving marks, 82.5+ marks fetch Silver. You can win a Gold medal at a seemingly low score of 86.6 while the wine would have to struggle hard to get the Great Gold medal reserved only for those wines that manage to get 92 or more from the jury of 5-6 persons. There are 4-5 flights everyday with 50 wines tasted daily. The luck of the draw saw me tasting 50 Rosé wines! Tomorrow is another day.

The jury is truly international with all 5 judges in our panel being from different countries. Unlike in some competitions, the average of all scores is taken but if the marks are totally out of scale, they are not systematically rejected. The lists giving out the samples tasted are distributed to the jury at the end of each session –these are confidential and not to be passed to those outside the competition. This gives the judges an opportunity to understand more about the quality of the region based on the wines tasted and the wineries. Judges, of course, love the competition, not only because of the professionalism and the awesome size with 56 panels judging in a huge hall, but because it also gives them an opportunity to visit a new country every year and since they are wine producing regions, to learn about the wine culture and production of that country by visiting a few wineries as well.

Click For Large ViewNo matter how professionally a competition of this nature is organized, there are always Doubting Thomases questioning the efficacy of such events. The organizers are ever working towards making them more reliable by devising techniques to make the system more uniform. Every competition has the calibration samples etc. But here they have introduced an element of judging the consistency of judges by repeating 2 wines on different days and comparing the results of the same taster. Then there are comparisons between scoring patterns of other members in the panel as well.

It’s a constant endeavour to improve the professional approach and the number of samples has been constantly increasing despite the recession, though the increase this year of around 200 samples may not be too significant at 2.5%. Industry experts agree that to increase the numbers beyond such levels is indeed a Herculean task.

Last year’s statistics indicate that one sample was received from India too. At last the beginning has been made! If the producers are looking for the European market in general for exports, this is the best platform as compared to Mundusvini for the German market and Vinitaly for Italian importers.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Bratislava


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