Medals, just like numeric scores, are indicators of a wine’s quality.
That said, the awarding of medals – just like the bestowing of ratings – is a very subjective process.
No two wine competitions are exactly the same, but Vinesse tasting panel members have judged in enough of them for us to be able to paint an accurate picture of what takes place in a “typical” competition.
Judges are assigned to panels of three, four or five (an odd
number is preferred to avoid voting ties). A panel tastes through a
series of wines by variety type, usually in flights of between 10 and
20 (depending on the number of entries in a given category).
Each judge assesses each wine in his or her own way, and then the
panel discusses which wines in a given flight are worthy of medals.
Sometimes, in order to elevate the “prestige” of a competition, judges
may be asked to be very tough in their assessments and recommendations;
a competition that awards a relatively low number of medals may be
perceived as more prestigious than one in which medals are handed out
like candy on Halloween.
Once an entire category has been tasted by a panel, the judges
compare notes about the gold medal winners in order to select a “Best
of Class.” At this point, if there is no obvious winner, the judges may
ask to re-taste a handful of contenders side by side.
All of the “Best of Class” wines later are poured for all of the
panels to determine a competition’s major award winners. Any number of
categories may be offered, including “Best Red Wine,” “Best White
Wine,” “Best Dessert Wine,” etc. Those category winners then are judged
side by side in order to determine an overall “Best of Show.”
Through the years, the Vinesse tasting panel has gained a
reputation for identifying meda-worthy (and thus member-worthy) wines
before they begin winning medals during the competition season. Still,
it’s always nice when a prestigious wine competition verifies our
tasting panel’s good taste.