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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 28 April 2010 10:14

Record Entries for Competition on Wheels-Concours Mondial

The global slowdown does not seem to have affected wine producers’ desire to have their wines tasted and evaluated blind, with the 17th edition of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles attracting a record number of over 7000 entries from 50 countries, writes Subhash Arora who was one of the judges at the Palermo edition.

Venue of Tasting for the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

Held between 23-25 April, the 3-day annual competition saw each judge evaluate the record entries from over 7000 samples from 50 countries poured by the students of Palermo Hotel Management College. Jury of journalists and enologists from 40 countries, comprising of 7 members each in a panel ensured that the palates were truly international for the judging of wines.

Although not strictly based on OIV regulations, it does however use the 100-point system with each jury ensuring that the members give their individual scores but can discuss- unofficially and quietly if they so chose to discuss after declaring their points. The biggest advantage where the Concours scores over others is the learning opportunity it offers the jurors. After the competition for the day finishes- with a maximum of 50 wines, the list of wines tasted is also given to the tasters. This way, they can learn a lot about how they rated the wines and the regions, varietals etc the wines were from. Only the vintage is disclosed at the time of blind tasting.

It is perhaps the only competition in the world which can be termed as a competition on wheels; it is held every year in a different European country. Started in 1994 in Belgium by the magazine publisher Louis Havaux, the organisers decided to make Concours Mondial de Bruxelles a competition on wheels in 2006 to make it a truly international contest, going beyond the national frontiers.

Tasting in Session

Moving out of Belgium it held the first event outside Brussels in Lisbon (2007), followed by Bordeaux (2008) and Valencia (2009), the current one being in Palermo (2010). With much fanfare, the organisers announced on the last day of the competition that the next edition will be held in Luxemburg  from 6-8 May, 2011.

When asked about the logistical nightmare, Baudouin Havaux who bought the competition founded by his father Louis Havaux did not sound apprehensive. ‘We stored them with us in Brussels and then carried them in two big, temperature controlled trucks with one bottle of every sample submitted, in each truck. Of course, I was very nervous as we loaded both the trucks at Massina in the same ferry.’ (Messina is the town where the island of Sicily is separated from the mainland Italy).

The wines get awarded a Great Gold, Gold or a Silver Medal depending upon the scores being equal to or more than 96, 87and 83 respectively. Each taster gets to taste 50 wines each day- besides the 4 sample wines served to all tasters to help calibrate their marking scales to some extent. Handled efficiently, the tasting finishes before lunch, leaving the tasters enough time to use the afternoons more productively-visiting wineries or historical monuments like the Norman Palace in the heart of the city, Florio winery in Marsala, owned by Duca di Salaputra and the old historical temple in Segesta on the way, during this Concours..

Tasters enjoying the sunny coffee break

The competition does seem to have a few limitations like any other competition. The seating style was almost like at Vinitaly except the Jury chairman faced the jurors. But as Thomas Costenoble, Directeur du Concours Mondial de Bruxelles since 1995 said, ‘we are not too fussy about how the panelists seat themselves-in fact we leave it to each jury. What is more important is that there should be quiet in the tasting hall so no individual feels disturbed.’ In fact, Thomas was often at the mike requesting jurors to maintain silence. ‘ our experience is that if the jurors sit in the conference style around the table, they start discussing before scoring their own points and take longer time as well,’ he added.

The other issue that ought to be addressed is the pouring of older vintages. Most of the age-worthy wines over 4-5 years need to be decanted and made to breathe a bit before they give their seductive best. As it is, not every juror may be able to evaluate the ageing potential of a wine in that category in such a short time available- and this can be a constraint in most competitions. Decanting  would at least give a better opportunity for the laggards which take time to open up and show their personality but are very charming otherwise and deserve a better attention and the consequently higher rating.

Sommeliers taking a bow for the appreciation

The competition is managed by an independent organisation with professional experience. The tasting is completely blind and done under best conditions in Spiegelau glasses. It is interesting to know that the organisers plan to send a complete report on the tasting session and work out a statistical  analysis at the end of show. Also, it was heartening to know that the organisers test every sample of awarded wines would be measured against the actual samples in the market through a lab analysis.

The competition also provided a great professional opportunity to the young boys and girls studying to be sommeliers. Despite making their own organisation job a bit more difficult than it would be, if the competition were to be held at the same venue like most other competitions, the venue also gave an opportunity to the local wines, wineries and the cuisine

For the results to be announced in less than a week and more details, visit
Subhash Arora


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