ELISE LANE IS SAVOUR’S WINE EXPERT AND CO-FOUNDER OF LANEBERG WINE – A UNIQUE URBAN WINERY FOCUSED ON PRODUCING FANTASTIC QUALITY WINES FROM ENGLISH GRAPES. HERE SHE chats wine awards, trusting results or reviews and personal taste.
I recently read an article that reminded me that even if a film has a very good review, you still might not like it as the genre may not be to your taste.
Wine is also like that – just as I’d suppose anything with a wide variety of different versions or genres is. The job of a good film or wine critic is to cut through personal taste and make an assessment based on technical quality.
Wine Awards are judged like this too and the awards, as well as reviews, are there to help guide those with less expertise (or less freedom to experiment) towards something they may enjoy. But just like film reviews, they offer less value if you only read about varieties you already know you like. Stay curious, don’t just discard dessert wine forever because you had one glass you didn’t enjoy, You wouldn’t write off Judy Dench based on Cats!
Why should you trust the results or review? One of the great strengths of wine awards is that they are judged by professionals in the field, such as Oz Clarke and Susie Barrie for the Wine GB awards. These judges are very experienced, and there is no benefit to them if they were to endorse a wine that wasn’t the quality claimed. Wine is also judged in blind tastings against many other varieties in that category, so there is no way a wine can win awards on name or reputation.
So how do you navigate the sea of stickers you come across on wine bottles, and if a wine doesn’t have a sticker does that make it bad?
There are lots of different wine awards, some are regional some are national, some international. For example in France, where every region has its own awards and they are often used to promote that particular region internationally.
Entering a wine into a competition has strict rules of entry and consistent requirements to reach a particular award. In the UK, the most recognisable competitions are run by Decanter Magazine (DWWA), The International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and the International Wine Challenge (IWA).
For English wine the most coveted wine award is the WineGB awards. In this country winemakers are encouraged to enter competitions as it allows customers to understand the quality of the wine in a very new market.
In most competitions, judging is out of 100 points, with point bands for Gold, Silver and Bronze and sometimes Platinum – and sometimes Best in Show. The bands work a bit like A-Level grades, however there is no statistical distribution applied to ensure a number at each level, if no wines are good enough for a gold (usually 90 points and above) then no wine will get one. If a judge deems a wine to be good enough for gold or above, it will go on to be tasted by another set of judges to corroborate.
Some people don’t agree with me on this point, but if a wine has a bronze medal it is still a good wine, and you will enjoy it (unless you aren’t a fan of that type of wine!). The wines that score the highest points are truly exceptional.
If a wine doesn’t have an award, what does this mean? Well, it doesn’t automatically mean it is a bad wine. It could mean a number of things: perhaps the winery makes quirky wines that are delicious but don’t fit rules of entry. Maybe the winery doesn’t want to spend money on entering awards as it believes the product will sell itself, and customers will be the judge. Sometimes larger wine companies don’t bother as they don’t need that type of publicity and instead spend their larger marketing budgets on advertising.
Do I trust awards stickers? Yes, but they can’t override personal taste. If I circle back to my first sentence, if you try a wine and you don’t like it, even if it has an award, it’s possible that variety isn’t your taste rather than it being a bad wine – something I always try to remind myself before posting my own reviews online.
Just like films, there is usually a wine to suit every taste and half the fun is the search.
Find our more about Elise’s business, Laneberg Wine, and discover more about her wines – as well as purchase them – here.