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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Saturday, 12 June 2010 13:10

Feature: Be a Certified Wine Judge in a Day

Most of the international wine competitions select the judges based on their own criteria, which may depend upon the costs or the quality of judges and their relevant experience, but there is  Syrah du Monde, where they keep standards so high that they select the judges after accrediting them first, after a day’s training and testing, writes an amused Subhash Arora.

Dave Hughes, an Honorary Cape Wine Master is one of the oldest living wine experts from South Africa. He started judging at the international wine competitions in early 1970s basically ‘to taste different international wines and keep abreast of the wine industry as there was apartheid in South Africa those years.’ He never looked back and today he is one of the most active international judges seen everywhere and is also a ‘permanent ‘representative for a globally acclaimed wine competition in the UK.

Ask him about the basic objective of the wine competitions and he comes out with an instant answer, ‘to make money for the organisers’, adding most of them don’t pay you any money. Decanter etc pay you per diem but that means basically it is for the locals.’ He does concede that it also helps the producers in marketing wines and introspection of where their wines stand in terms of quality.

Robert Joseph, the well known British journalist, author, speaker and co-founder of International Wine Challenge and Chairman of the Indian Wine Challenge concurs. ‘Why should people grudge the profit motives? After all it is a business like any other segment of wine business where people do make money. So long as it is conducted professionally, people should be happy.’ India Wine Challenge has not started making any money for him or the partners but he is not undeterred. ‘You don’t start making money from day one in any business. So long as there are no conflicts of interest and it is purely blind and the integrity of the organisers and general quality of judges is acceptable and is above reproach, any competition should be fine.’

So you have Vinitaly, MundusVini, Concours de Mondial, Vinitaly, Decanter, International Wine Challenge and scores of such competitions which are big and truly international in style and have established themselves as competitions to reckon with. Many of them are conducted under the aegis of OIV whereas others form their own rules based on the other non-OIV competitions. Robert has conducted over 50 of them in several countries; some are still carrying on while others did not make business or ethical sense and he got out of them.

Syrah-du-Monde Awards

There is an award somewhere in Portugal from where I get the invitation every year, provided I get them 10 winery samples! Needless to say they get the instant delete button treatment and one does not bother to remember any details.

But there is yet another interesting competition-with purely commercial objectives- Syrah-du-Monde for which I am frequently requested to be a judge and have never had the opportunity or inclination to make it to France. The results of this year were announced a couple of weeks back.

There were 387 entries of Shiraz /Syrah from the Old World and New World-in fact 37 countries took part including a lone entry from India. Although the website states that the Grand Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze would be awarded, there are no Great Golds. Only 37 Golds and 93 silver medals were awarded, implying that a third of the participants were awarded Gold and Silver while the organisers did not find any wine that deserved a Grand Gold.

Muscats- and other-du-Mondes

Like the famous ‘Carry-on’ series from UK years ago, the same organisers, Forum Oenologie, also organises Muscats du Monde, Chardonnay du Monde, Effervescents du Monde and perhaps has a few more on the board for other grape varietals- like Chenin, Sauvignon (they might already have them!!!)

The producers have to send 6 bottles of wine along with a payment of €160 per sample+ taxes. If you want to be a jury panelist for any of their competitions, you have to first become an expert judge- by spending only €360 for a day’s training. But you also get certification from the organisers as a qualified judge!

On a more serious note, it was a pleasure to find the Indian flag on their website displaying the winners- Sula won a silver for India and no matter how much money the organisers make, the judging seems to be blind, professional and French (the knowledge of the language is a pre-requisite) and the results seem to reflect the true picture.

 Rasa Shiraz 2007 bags a Silver

The maiden appearance by the Indian winery- the newly introduced Rasa Shiraz from Sula won a Silver Medal for its very first vintage. Naturally, Rajeev Samant, CEO Director of Sula Vineyards is ecstatic. ‘I am very pleased that we got the prestigious award. There are not very many competitions that specialize in Shiraz, so it has a special meaning for us as the producer of a Shiraz. The rules require a minimum percentage of 75% or 85% depending upon whether they are from outside the EU or within.

So if you are a producer of Shiraz, Muscat, Chardonnay or a bubbly, you might want to consider du-Monde. If you want to become a certified wine judge in a day, this is certainly the place to be at.

Pay and be a Certified Judge in a Day

The most amusing part of the competition is the selection of the judges. In most competitions, the organisers have some knowledge of the judges and their expertise. Some have an inherent system built in, ostensibly to throw out the oddballs-OIV in fact mandates that the top and bottom scores of any jury panel must be eliminated, making it slightly controversial for many. In any case, the selection is by invitation.

In the case of du Monde competitions, you have, repeat, have to undergo one day of training that costs €360, even if you are a Master of Wine. John Salvi MW has a tasting experience of around 50 years and has tasted at hundreds of such competitions during his lifetime-he was a fellow judge recently at Puglia. ‘I wanted to judge once at this competition where they don’t pay anyway. But I was told I have to pay the 360 Euros. When I told them of my background and experience, I was told rather bluntly, that they don’t care who the person is-the one day training is a must.’ But then who gets to volunteer for these competitions. ‘I don’t know,’ says John. ‘I guess there are plenty of people who are looking for the stamp of a certification to be an international judge. They may be willing to pay now and get this certificate for future use.’

So, if you are looking to be an international judge, this might be an opportunity to become a certified wine judge in a day. The Muscats du-Monde happens next month!

Subhash Arora

Disclosure: We have no connection with the organisers or any of their relatives, judges or producers. Sula confirmed their participation, payment and the prize. It is based on various emails from them on record and their website. A mail to the organisers seeking some clarifications was not replied to-editor



Ulf S Says:

What a fantastic business model! The wineries pay and the judges pay. Do they tell how many judges are discarded after the 1 day course?

Posted @ June 14, 2010 15:48


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