Imbibe Live Online: 10 tips on judging wines for competitions



02 November 2020

As part of Global Bar Week, we asked three of our eminent Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA) judges what it takes to judge wines for competitions

The competition's head of judging Christine Parkinson (Brimful Drinks), senior judge Harry Crowther (Grain to Grape) and team leader Charlie Young (Vinoteca) took viewers through a tasting session, highlighting their methods, practices and what to look out for when judging wines for competitions.

Here are 10 of their top tips:

1. Taste the whole flight before allocating medals: If your competition requires you to move wines from flights to the next round, or to allocate medals, Parkinson advises to taste the whole flight before putting any wines through to the next round. Why? Because as a judge, you are trying to find the very best.

2. Take price point into consideration: Price point is important to understand if a wine delivers at that price point, says Crowther, who also says it helps to contextualise the wines. Young also believes that the price of a wine guides a taster's thoughts when it comes to imagining what kind of establishment (pub, high-end restaurant, bar) the wine would be served in.

3. Look for typicity: Put simply by Parkinson, questioning whether the liquid in the glass is doing what the consumer would expect it to do or taste like is an important factor when judging wines.

4. Don’t single out wines you don’t personally like: Of course, tasting wine is subjective says Young, but you must remember that you are judging wines for the end consumer.

5. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong: Crowther points out that the beauty of judging in a team of professionals is that more seasoned judges are there to help first-time judges. It's all in the learning – listen to your team.

6. Always say something: Head of judging, Parkinson believes that for first-time judges in a wine competition, it is important to gain your confidence by saying something, even if it’s just one thing that you can get from the wine.

7. Be honest: If there is a wine you don't like, be honest, says Crowther. Then allow your team to calibrate your palate through discussion.

8. Break down who the wine is for: It is important to understand when and why there is a demand for a particular wine style, even if it’s not your favourite, explains Young.

9. Speak up about faults: Parkinson encourages that you should never be afraid to ask for a new bottle if you believe a wine may be faulty.

10. Judge wine blind: Tasting wine blind really helps you judge a wine, says Young, as you have no preconceptions about the wine style or producer. You notice more in the glass.

You can watch the whole session in the video below:

And you can see all the sessions on demand here.

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