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Posted: Monday, September 29 2008. 12:52

Ralf Anselmann: King of Medals

 Weingut Anselmann located in Edesheim in the Palatinate region of Germany is a winery that has won more than a thousand medals in wine competitions during the last 15 years. Subhash Arora visited the winery recently and met Ralf Anselmann, to find out how they have achieved the seemingly impossible task

Ralf Anselmann
Ralf Anselmann with a few of the award winning wines
Ralf Anselmann is a pleasant sight at Mundusvini wine competition. He is the chairman of one of the 7-person jury panels. His wines from the Anselmann Winery in Pfalz, about 90 kms south of Frankfurt, are also participants in the competition. He is also the partner of the winery he runs with his brother who is also part of the jury.

'Isn't there a conflict of interest here? - is my first question to him. What if he gets his own wines to taste in the panel? Do the organisers make efforts to ensure he does not get his own wines to taste?'

'I don't think the organisers do such selection or segregation. About a quarter of the judges at Mundusvini are producers and winemakers. With more than 5000 wines in the tasting, I am not sure if I or anyone else would recognise the wine. In the unlikelihood of such a case, I cannot influence the jury towards our wines as each judge rates wines individually and without discussing,' he informs.

Ralf's winery has participated in over 30 different competitions including Mundusvini. 'Some of the competitions have even closed down,' he says with a smile.

Selecting Competitions for Participation

How does he select the competitions to take part in? It costs money to enter each sample, after all.

'It is very simple actually,' he says with a twinkle in his eyes. 'Every competition awards around 30% or more medals. This means if I enter 10 decent wines, the chances of my winning the medals are 3 on the average in that competition. Of course, I believe our wines are of fine quality and due to our selection process, the chances are even more. So we enter in as many competitions as possible. The cost of entry is a small portion we attribute to the marketing cost,' he says.

'How about a medal winner dessert wine after lunch?' asks Ralf in the restaurant adjoining the winery

I agree with him after tasting several of his wines from the Riesling selection and other varietals including the seductive icewine at the winery and at the restaurant next to the winery over lunch; the restaurant is full of people enjoying lunch with different wines and plenty of sunshine.

Selecting wines for competitions

How does he select his wines for competitions?

'I try to gauge the market in which I am interested and select my wines according to the style that might be popular there. I will not enter my Eiswein for a market where it won't sell. I would not select a light, fruity and fragile Riesling for a competition in Rioja in Spain where I know they prefer hearty and powerful wines.'

In other words, he tries to gauge the market and the palate of the judges for a competition.

Does he personally select the samples, then? Oh, no, he says. 'I just tell my secretary which labels to send. He goes out to the finished products warehouse and picks out any bottle at random.'

'Does he feel that some people might give special samples in order to get the awards?'

Slightly perplexed, he says,' why would anyone do that? It is not as if winning the medal is going to make them stars overnight. It helps to get the recognition, surely and helps maintain long-term relationships with the buyers. Besides, the laws are very strict here. The organisers keep a bottle of the sample of each award winning wine in their warehouse. At anytime, the wine from the market can be compared against the sample in storage. Any discrepancy is taken very seriously. The cheating producer's winery can even lose the license.'

Similar control is exercised in sticking the medal labels on the bottle winning the award. This is an area of importance as the retail customers can be influenced by the award stickers on the bottle. We get regular random checks from the government authorities and strict action is taken against the offenders,' he adds.

Well Mr. Anselmann, we do not have any such laws in India yet and can only hope that the producers have integrity in sending samples for the India Wine Challenge.

Participating in India Wine Challenge

Has he heard of the India Wine Challenge? 'Of course. In fact, we did participate in it in a small way last year. I am fascinated by the Indian market and would love to be there. This year I would enter a few more wines after selecting carefully for the market.

I would love to judge at this competition too. Judging at these competitions is great way of learning too. I have been busy this year but next year I hope Robert (Joseph) will invite me for the same. I would love to come both to London and India. I have been coming to Mundusvini as a participant and judge, practically every year since it started 8 years ago.'

Mundusvini Tastings

Mundusvini conducts the annual wine challenge strictly according to the OIV rules. Each panel must have an international majority and must include not only sommeliers and journalists but also wine producers and winemakers to bring a well-rounded expertise to the table.

Each wine is tasted blind on a 100-point scale, where the taster has to give comment on several variables like possible faults, types of aromas and fruit etc. Each juror has to taste and rate wines individually and independently. The average of all 7 jurors is taken. Extreme scores are eliminated by removing the ratings falling outside the + or – 5 points outside the range and the average re-calculated. If it gets 85 or more it gets a silver, 90 or more gets it a gold and 95 or more would give it a great gold.

Partial display of the trophies and the awarded wines
Generally Golds and Great Golds are not changed but silver medals can be adjusted up or down by the panel of 7 judges , to ensure that the total number awarded remains within the stipulated total of 30% medals. The rating system does not even allow the disclosure of the country of production. (I remember a Chardonnay in our panel that a couple of experts swore was from Burgundy. The list of wines, still not disclosing the producers, circulated after the day's tastings indicated that the wine was from South Africa.)  

Medals and Prices

Does Ralf  jack up the prices on winning a medal like producers do after getting a higher Rating from Uncle Bob (Robert Parker)? 'Oh, no. We never do that. To us, winning medals is getting the recognition for our wines and our winery. One label may get a medal this year but the next vintage may not necessarily win. Are we going to reduce the prices?'

He does not keep a track of the individual medals from different competitions. But the walls in the reception, tasting areas and all over are decorated with several, but not all of his trophies and certificates. He does not even recollect which of his wines or if any, won a medal last year at the India Wine Challenge. All he knows is he is entering in a bigger way this year.

Knowing Ralf and his wines, don't be surprised to see Anselmann wines or Anselmann himself in India soon.

Subhash Arora

       

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