India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
HKIWSC: 4th edition concludes successfully with Record Entries

Posted: Tuesday, 09 October 2012 11:59

HKIWSC: 4th edition concludes successfully with Record Entries

October 09: The wine segment of the 4th edition of Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition concluded successfully on Sunday with a record number of over 1800 entries, clocking an increase of 32% over last year despite Decanter debuting the Asia Awards last month in Hong Kong, writes Subhash Arora who has been a regular judge at the competition chaired by Debra Meiburg MW.

Click For Large ViewHKIWSC is a first competition of its kind in Hong Kong, run in partnership with the London-based International Wine & Spirit Competition, which has been running such competitions in London and overseas for 40 years. It has been created specifically for the Asian market. Even the judges are chosen from Asian countries like China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India representing a cumulative Asian palate which is considered to be different from the western palate, such as the Director of the Competition Debra Meiburg MW, an American settled in Hong Kong for around 25 years has developed an Asian palate for wine and food.

Click For Large ViewThere is one exception every year - an expert is invited from outside the region as a VIP Guest judge. Tony Jordan from Australia was the first one, followed by Tim Atkin MW from London. Last year was Alberto Antonini from Tuscany. This year the invitation was extended to Karen MacNeil, perhaps the senior-most food and wine writer and educator in the USA, and author of the well-known book, The Wine Bible. Living in the heart of Napa Valley in St. Helena, Karen brought years of wine tasting and education experience and was a welcome VIP Guest Judge who mingled with the Asian judges with great ease.

Scoring System

HKIWSC judging system has a 100-point scale where the wine needs to score 87 for a Bronze, 90 or more for Silver and 94 for a Gold medal. Each set of flights usually had 15-35 wines pre-poured in the glasses on a single table for each of the five judges in a panel. They are expected to do the math mentally after judging the colour (10), aromas (20), palate (30) and overall balance including the after-taste (30) and note down the aggregate score they think the wine deserves and whether the wine should be awarded a medal. An average is calculated and in case of a wide disagreement, the judge scoring outside the general consensus gets a chance to defend his/her score based on the individual tasting notes.

Every judge is free to express the logic behind the recommended score and after discussion, the consensus score is awarded to the wine and entered in the computer after which no-one is allowed to make any change. KPMG, the official auditors of the competition, monitor the scoring and the whole process diligently. In case of a strong disagreement, the Chairperson’s comments and the VIP judge are also available for consultation. It is not unusual to have a whole panel to come to the fore when the views are too diverse or one of the judges feels too committed to his/her opinion. Thus, before finally awarding the score and recording the medal, every judge acts as the advocate for that wine which gets a full opportunity to show its merits (or de-merits!).

Taste and Test Your Palate

Click For Large ViewThe novel concept introduced last year became quite popular and was repeated on the evenings of 4-6 October in the room adjoining the tasting room at the venue - Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. It was open to the consumers, though the focus was more on the importers, professionals and the hospitality personnel, concedes Debra. The event not only lets you taste wines from the established regions like Bordeaux or Barolo but also lesser known countries like Georgia, Greece, Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan whose wines are not yet available in abundance in the Asian markets. Once could compare diverse wine styles from different regions and even learn about several different indigenous grape varieties from several countries.

‘Too much wine goes down the drain at such competitions, says Debra, whose idea was to let the opened bottles be offered to the 200 or so people coming every day so they could use up the wine and also rub shoulders with the expert judges. But won’t it be criticized as a money- making project by some detractors, I ask Debra. ‘We don’t even cover the cost of renting the extra room!’ she pipes back. ‘And this is when we are supported by Lucaris, the wine company that not only provides the tasting glass that retails for HK$110 but every participant is allowed to take one home as a souvenir.

Click For Large ViewThe ever-smiling and non-snobbish Debra adds, ‘Test Your Palate allows wine students and enthusiasts to taste wines in a focused and meaningful way. We hope tasters will acquire new knowledge and greater intimacy with their palates. Where else would they have the opportunity to taste substantial flights of wine rarely seen on our markets, such as from Georgia, Brazil and England?" With around 1500 wines available to taste over three days, the event should really be given the nomenclature ‘Test Your Stamina.’  It was also a pleasurable experience for the judges to mingle with the crowd and reassuring for me that we are not so much worse off in India with people willing to learn, but we still have a ways to go. I was quite amused when a young lady walked up to me seeing my white lab coat and said, ‘I don’t know anything about wine. Can you please suggest me the most expensive wines'; she made sure to take pictures of whatever I suggested. Luckily, she liked my recommendations and accepted my word as the gospel truth!

It was an honour to be invited to be the panel president for yet another year;  there were 4 panels except for the Food and Wine Tasting on the 4th day when there were 5 keeping in view the number of dishes. I shared the honour with Debra Meiburg MW (competition director), Karen MacNeil (the VIP Guest Judge) and Sarah Wong.

Food and Wine Matching Awards

Click For Large ViewWhile a consumer is always at will to decide what he or she likes to drink with the food, the food and wine pairing is an ongoing experience and  internationally accepted as such. Based on the characteristics of wine and food,  one can of course judge how well they are palatable together. Though a relatively subjective exercise, this leg of the competition held on the last day is keenly awaited by the judges who are offered 2-3 sets of foods in different flights with different wines. All the rules followed in the wine competition are followed except the emphasis is on the match only (on several occasions during the last decade, I have rated food and wines together and rated the match separately - it is amazing how a simple wine may become a heavenly match with some dish!).

Click For Large ViewThe competition had, during the earlier years, Chinese and Japanese dishes - a Thai dish was entered this year . Thanks to my persistent efforts last year, verbally and through delWine, the organizers added an Indian dish as well - the Chicken Tikka (NOT to be confused with the chicken tikka masala which the Brits must have patented as a British invention!).  There were the old stalwarts; Chinese - Peking Duck, Cantonese Dim Sum, Braised Abalone and Kung Pao Chicken; Japanese - Tempura shrimp, Sashimi, Yakitori grilled chicken, Beef Teppan Yaki and the spicy Thai dish, Pad Thai.

No medals for guessing who was the president of the panel for the ‘Spicy’ section that included the Kung Pao Chicken  with red chilies (35), Chicken Tikka (12) and Pad Thai (30). Tasting spicy dishes with 77 wines would be not for weak stomachs, certainly not if you cannot stomach spices. Incidentally, for those who may wonder how one can survive 77 morsels with wine, the principal of tasting food and wine is the same - you pick up  all the components and take them in the mouth, chew them till all the flavours explode on the palate, then take a sip of wine, feeling the sensation of the combo, and spit everything into the spittoon provided.

Click For Large View Click For Large View Click For Large View

An art by itself, the judging could have misleading results if one takes only one of the components, for instance, a piece of red chili or a cashew by itself in Kung Pao chicken would give a different sensation on the palate; so would the chicken with or without the yogurt chutney prepared by the chefs at the Convention Center. A bigger challenge was also with the Pad Thai, with a miniscule amount of shrimp that changed the sensation totally on the palate - for instance, a red shiraz might go perfectly well with the slightly sweet and spicy egg noodles but a piece of shrimp would kill the shiraz on the palate. Perhaps the chefs need to consider this fact and make sure that each of the components is amplified in the dish for such tastings so that each morsel should have as many components of the dish as possible, - including the red chilies that can be broken into very minute pieces to let the palate enjoy the complete experience. In any case, it was the most enjoyable segment and by lunch time, everyone was ready for a complete lunch!

It was rather disappointing to see very few entries for the Chicken Tikka section. Fortunately, the food and wine pairing went very well with a wider spectrum of wines (I hope I am not breaking the confidentiality clause of not disclosing results - we don’t know where the wines are from!) and more and more wine producers would be tempted to participate next year. But one hopes Indian wines also took part in this competition though one had the feeling that more Indian wines participated this year in the general wine-only category.

The competition, in partnership with HKTDC, is chugging along fine and has established itself because of the high integrity of the judges and professionalism, despite the entry of Decanter which also had a majority of Asian judges (I was also invited but had to regret because of prior commitments at home). The first Decanter Asia Wine Awards were held on 17-24 September.

Click For Large ViewResults will be announced next month at the gala evening on the inaugural day of the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair from 8-10 November. For details visit

For earlier related articles, please visit:
WSA & HKIWSC: Tale of Two International Competitions
HKIWSC: Test Your Palate with Tasted Wines
Four Seasons: Serve the Reserve with Food

Subhash Arora


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet