Organising a wine competition

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IF, as a winemaker, you wish to exhibit your wine competitively, you are not likely to encounter many difficulties, so long as you adhere rigidly to any conditions which are laid down in the show's schedule, and if your wine is up to standard, you may even win a prize! If, however, you are a club secretary or official, or even are known locally as someone who "knows a bit about wine,'.' you are liable suddenly to find yourself faced with a request by some flower show or other to lay down rules and regulations for a wine class which the committee is thinking of including for the first time.

Your first action should be to study the Judges Guild handbook, "Judging Home-made Wines," carefully.

Secondly, you have to decide how many, and what, classes you can have (or afford) on this occasion. You should bear in mind that a single wine class is not much use, for no judge can really judge a sweet wine side by side with a dry. Once he has tasted a really sweet wine his palate for drier wines is destroyed for that day! At least two classes are therefore desirable, and more if possible, and many Circles prefer grouping wines into Dry, Medium, and Sweet. It is not really possible to define these in terms of Specific Gravity; the best one can do is to say that a really dry wine is likely to be below 1000.

Given these three main classifications it is an age-old argument as to how wines should be further broken down into the small numbers desirable for a class. Should they be described by ingredient, e.g. "Parsnip, sweet," "Redcurrant, dry," or by purpose, e.g. "Red table wine, dry," "Dessert wine, white"? There are two schools of thought, and the handbook caters for both by giving specimen schedules of all sizes in both systems. It is for you to decide which you prefer.

Having decided upon his classes, the organiser can proceed to draw up some rules, and here are some of the points which obviously he must cover; others may well occur in individual cases.


Standard 26-oz. wine bottles and no half-bottles should be used, and they should be of clear glass. (Even red wines should be shown in clear bottles, so that the colour can be judged.)

The airspace should be between H in. and % in.

No separate small tasting bottle (to avoid the necessity of opening the bottle exhibited) should be allowed, and exhibitors should be told that the actual bottle will be opened and tasted.

Bottles should be securely corked, preferably with a stopper cork, which may be wired for travelling.

Labels should preferably be supplied by the organisers, and be about 2 ins. by % in., so affixed that the bottom edge of the label is an inch above the bottom of the bottle. On the label should appear only the description of the wine, by use or by ingredient according to the type of schedule adopted.

Golden and tawny wines go in the white wine classes, rose wines go with the reds if there are no separate classes.

Model rules are set out in the handbook.

HAVING covered all these points, turn your thoughts to the judges. What will they want? A good judge will bring his own kit—corkscrew, glasses, tea towel, marking sheet, etc., but it is of the greatest assistance if you can ensure that he is provided with glasses for tasting, a spittoon, water for washing up, and a vessel in which to do it, and a palate refresher—cheese, biscuit, bread or something of that sort.

But how, I can hear you asking, does one actually judge wine? And here I run into difficulty, because it is just not possible to describe a taste with pen and paper. And that, of course, is the factor with which one is principally concerned. Taste, and knowledge of wine, is largely a matter of accumulated comparative experience, and it is up to every winemaker, whether he aspires to judge or not, steadily to increase his knowledge and experience of wine by comparing his own products with those of his fellow members and, indeed, with all types of commercial wine. Only in that way can he acquire the requisite experience, and it is one of the pleasantest aspects of our hobby, as you, well know!

A National judge will assess the wine under these four main headings, for which he will award points as follows:—

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