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How do wines earn awards--and what do they mean?
Kia Ora! The Daily Sip is in New Zealand, busily exploring the country's wine regions and judging in the annual Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Over four days we'll taste a lion's share of 1,583 wines! Our next dental appointment will be a doozy.
It can be equally painful seeing countless bottles in the wine shop with gold, silver and bronze award stickers, and wondering, Does an award mean that I'll like the wine? Maybe, maybe not. Here's why:
In wine competitions, a panel of a few expert judges blind-tastes all the wines in a particular category--say, Merlot. The judges taste independently and give each Merlot a gold, silver or bronze medal (or no award at all). Later, the judges convene and compare notes for a final decision on each wine. Usually, the medal-winning wines stood out for their flavor and balance.
Imagine you were doing the same thing with hamburgers. After a bite of each burger in a lineup of 50 or 100, the differences are tough to discern--but you do still recognize one burger as more attention-getting or distinct when you taste it. The same holds true in a wine competition.
However, whether burgers or wine are judged, the awards are relative only to the other entries. So in the end, it's most important to trust your own tastes. If you do like a medal-winning wine, buy other winners from the same competition--odds are you'll like those, too. And remember: It's O.K. to dislike a medal winner.
We have much more coming from our travels in New Zealand and the awards judging. Watch this space for regular updates!
Have you had a good or bad experience with an award-winning or high-scoring wine? Tell us about it below.