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Posted: Tuesday, 13 July 2021 22:12

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From Archives (2010): India Scores at Hong Kong IWSC

July 13: India participated for the first time at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition with merely 3 wines out of 1300  entered, but unconfirmed results suggest that two wines scored Bronze medals at the largest pan-Asian competition in its second year, reports writes Subhash Arora who was one of the judges.

The competition was held on Oct 29-Nov 2 held at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center where the second HK International Wine and Spirits Fair is being held from 4-6 November (regrettably I could not stay back from this important Show for the first time, as Diwali falls on Nov 5). The known parameters for the blind tasting were the country, region, vintage and grape varietal. Since the country and the average score of a wine is an open secret, it would be fairly reasonable to predict that two wines would win a Bronze.

The competition awards Gold Medal for 94+, Silver for 90+ and Bronze for 87+ out of a possible 100 points. There are no ‘Commendations’ or ‘Seal of Approval’ that normally make the number of wines getting a consolation prize unusually high  There is no limit to the medals awarded though. There is naturally no way of knowing more details and judges are too busy to worry about the results.

One of the USPs is the presence of an independent external auditor overseeing the whole process and being independently responsible for the tabulation of  results according to the declared criteria. Debra Meiburg MW says, ‘KPMG is our auditor and are handed over the sheets at the end of each flight and they tabulate the results which are not known to anyone till announced at the Gala- even us, with one exception this year.’

The results are to be announced on November 4 at the Gala Dinner. Debra admits sheepishly, ‘last year nobody knew the results except the auditors who gave us the sealed envelops which were opened a- la- Oscar Awards at the podium. It was embarrassing to find hardly any medal winners present. So this year, an exception has been made for practical reasons. The results would be known to two of us, in order to call and request the medal winners to personally receive the awards at the ceremony.

India debuted in the competition. ‘There were 3 entries from India this year, around a thousand for wines and another three hundred entered specifically for the food and wine match competition’ informs Allen Gibbons, MD of IWSG Group in London, which is partnering the competition with Debra and Simon Tam. The last category has been well structured and was an interesting part of the competition. Tim Atkin MW admitted being very excited about this segment as it is not a very common concept in the West and he has not judged many such categories.

Food and Wine Matching Competition

Wine samples are received exclusively for this category, although one wine may be entered in both categories. The objective is not to focus on wine quality but compatibility with the food. Although Australia’s Top Hundred competition held in Sydney from where he had returned  a week ago, Simon Tam says, ‘we select one complete dish that we would normally order in a restaurant and pair it with different wines to determine the medals, with Trophy in each class in this category. Last year sawwine pairing trophies for Best Wine with Dim Sum, Kung Pao Chicken, Braised Abalone and Peking Duck. This year Sashimi has been added to the list.’ An enthusiastic supporter of the concept, he adds, ‘Asian consumers want to know which wines they should order with their food and this category can be useful not only in Asia but throughout the world.’

It was no surprise that the ‘Peking Duck Trophy’ went to a rather obscure wine that was divine with the duck rolled in the pancake with Hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onions, although Pinot Noir was found universally the most compatible varietal by our panel. Personally, I still prefer a Rose Champagne with the Peking duck as at The China Kitchen in Delhi- preferably Lauren Perrier but Moet Chandon would also do, thank you. 

It might be slightly premature but I did suggest to Simon that an Indian platter should also be added to the category next year. Most judges talked fondly of Indian cuisine- especially those from Hong Kong and Singapore. He seemed to react positively. Coincidentally, India Wine Challenge has been experimented with the idea every year. Now, that IWSC is also involved with the InWC, the tremendous success and popularity of this category in Hong Kong will hopefully spur Allen Gibson to create this category in the next edition of InWC being held in Westin, Mumbai in January 2011.

The competition is unique in that it is judged by the people of Asia, for the people of Asia. ‘Asia’s Choice, Asia’s Voice’ is widely acclaimed by the producers to be the voice of the Asian wine market. It is the only competition in Asia where the judges are either Asian born or Asia based. They came from Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and two from India. The organisers and producers believe that the results truly reflect the taste across Asia, thus guiding consumers in  wine selection.

Partnered by the London based IWSG Group which also conducts the IWSC, the competition was overseen by the two Directors- Hong Kong based Debra Meiburg MW and the wine consultant Simon Tam. ‘The only exception we make is perhaps me and the specialist guest judges we invite every year,’ says Debra in her affable style. She is originally from the US but has been living in Hong Kong for around 25 years and is one of the only two MWs from Hong Kong. The British wine writer and TV personality Tim Atkin MW was the international Guest Chair this year.

With the Indian contingent taking part in the Show on Nov 4-6 through the Indian Grape Processing Board, it should be natural that more Indian wines are entered in this competition, with their support-financial and logistics. The winners would undoubtedly shout from the homepage of their websites and the stickers on their bottles about the awards. But let us not forget, we must Go for the Gold. It may not be the Asian Games, but let it be seen as the Asian Games for wines and let us score as many Golds as we can- to prove to the world that our wine quality is on the up and one day we would score as highly in it as in IT.  

Subhash Arora

 

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