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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 31 March 2010 11:28

Vinitaly Concorso Begins in Grand Style

The 18th edition of the 5-day Vinitaly International Wine Competition 2010 began at the Veronafiere venue in Verona on Monday in grand style, with 105 judges from Italy and abroad, ready to swirl, sniff and spit 3634 wine samples from 27 countries to award a total of 64 medals, under the aegis of OIV. Subhash Arora who was invited again as one of the judges, reports.

Click For Large ViewIf India can claim to have the best ‘army parade’ in the world on 26th January every year, the Vinitaly Concorso Enologico Internazionale must be the uncrowned king of wine competitions for the pomp and aplomb in which it is carried out. A total of 105 well-laid out tables, complete with 12-15 glasses and the accessories for tasting- water, tissues, bread and the scoring sheets, each numbered with the name and number of the commission (jury panel) and the flag of the juror’s nationality, fill the big hall on the first floor of the fairgrounds where Vinitaly is being held from 8th April for the 44th time. 21 sommeliers in their majestic black outfits stand in file-backstage, awaiting the instruction from their commander-in-chief, Giuseppe Martelli, the general manager of Assoenologi, who is the chairman of the competition and a common sight for several years.
For every pour the sommeliers walk in together like the army-though at a relaxed pace, take their place with bottle and serviette in hand. A soft ‘Prego’ (please) from Martelli on the microphone and they start walking towards their 5 clients-walking and pouring in tandem, with well co-coordinated timings. After a round is  completed, they all wait in a line in the predefined positions till he commands with a gentle ‘Grazie Sommelier’ and walk out together with cameras of the jurors frequently clicking to capture the moment. No body talks, no mobile phones allowed , the atmosphere is similar to an examination hall where Martelli is the chief  invigilator and the only contact for everything except the permission to go to ‘il bagno’ (the toilet).
Individual tasting is a unique feature of the competition. The OIV requires individual scoring- by a specified jury with a minimum of 5 members in a panel known as commission at Vinitaly. The scores are calculated by excluding the highest and lowest scores and then taking the average of the remaining scores by the notary public- Maria Maddalena Buonincontri was also the assigned Notary Public when I first came to judge four years ago.
The tasting is carried out without any exchange of words or passing around of any glasses; collective conversation or any consultation is frowned upon. At the end of each session having 12-13 wines, the scoring sheets are collected by your sommelier and passed on to the staff of the Notary who computes the scores and ensures that the competition has been conducted completely ‘blind’ and under the strictest of norms.
The wines have been divided into 16 categories, each of which is awarded a Grand Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal making it a total of 64 medals, which is barely 2% of the whole competition. Therefore, getting a medal in this competition is really very prestigious. The 30% of entrants scoring over 80% and getting the ‘Special Mention’ can also be proud of the achievement and also aspire for a Vinitaly Nation Award and the Italy Region Award. Each country participating also gets a top award. Of course, the grand prize is the Grand Vinitaly Award for a producer achieving highest score calculated by taking the average of 2 wines getting the highest points based on a 100-point system. Around 3% of the entries get some medal or the other.

Volley of Wines-the Roses

The merits and demerits of this or any other competitions can be discussed with as much passion as the superiority of a Sancerre or a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or even a Barolo and a Barbaresco. But this style does restrict the possible help to a wine by a short discussion under the control of a jury chairman after the scoring has been completed.

Another oft heard argument is the rejection of extreme numbers. If a juror with an expert handle on a particular wine finds it exceptionally good or bad, his voice would be buried in the hard disk drive of the computer for ever. Therefore, the jurors tend to take a middle of the road course, lest their scores are thrown out. There may be arguments for such system encouraging mediocrity. Besides, a healthy discussion-after the scoring has been done is always educative from the jurors’ point of view.

In any case, the 50 samples a day, the maximum number allowed in a day can well be achieved in 3 sessions held in the day- in

After Hours- a Taster from Romania
the pre lunch period, barring the inaugural day. This can reduce one day for the competition or alternately, the afternoons can be free for the jurists to visit a few wineries in the Veneto region, a prospect many producers like Masi, Zonin, Cantina di Soave or Cantina Negrar might welcome as they are able to showcase their wines to expert groups who often write about their experiences.

In any case, the Concorso offers a wonderful opportunity to the journalists to strengthen the bonds of wine friendships with many old friends and make some new friendships and get to know first hand which country is currently suffering the most due to recession, during the coffee breaks, lunches or the dinners, which are lavish and generally memorable, not only for food.
Subhash Arora



Nataly Says:

Marvellous article! Everything to the point! ) And good hint to the chairman - hope he'll find some time to read it! ;)

Posted @ April 06, 2010 10:47


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