More bizarre results at wine shows

The 2017 Melbourne International Wine Competition was apparently judged by a gaggle of monkeys. How else to explain the bizarre results?

The St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (AUD $6 at Coles) won a double gold medal. I tasted the wine and frankly, I would not have awarded it a bronze medal. I scored it 83 (bronze is 85-89 in most shows).

In the same competition, which I note is judged by retailers, The Fabulist Pinot Noir 2016 (entered by James Busby Wines and hence a Coles exclusive, selling for AUD $13) also won a double gold in the AUD $30-and-under category. As a lighter-bodied red wine it is quite pleasant, a strong bronze medal from me, but it doesn’t even taste like pinot noir. I scored it 88.

Aldi’s 2015 One Road Shiraz also won a double gold. I tasted it (blind) in May and scored it 88, which is a strong bronze medal. I noted that it was simple but good quality wine and remarkable value for the price (AUD $7). But a double gold medal? Seriously!

Several other winners are names I’d never heard, so I suspect some of them are also retailers’ own-label bottlings. Nothing wrong with that, but it is odd that retailers are judging their own wines in this show, and giving them inflated awards.

Silly awards have cropped up elsewhere recently, too. The Sydney Royal Wine Show 2017, whose results were announced two weeks ago, managed to award its trophy for the best cabernet sauvignon in the entire show to a baby cabernet that sells for AUD $10.40 at Dan Murphy’s. It is 2016 Hardy’s The Chronicle 7th Green Cabernet Sauvignon. It is fetchingly fresh and fruity, with lifted cabernet aromatics somewhat in the greener spectrum, but is a nice little wine and good value at the price, but the best cabernet in the show? Crazy, especially when the field also included, among other fine wines, the 2015 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a deserving gold medal winner in a different class.

Yes, it’s an aberration: Sydney is normally a very well-judged show – one of the best.

A few people were upset at my recent criticism of the 2017 Langhorne Creek wine show results, but more were supportive. I’ll continue to expose flaky results when I see them. Our wine show system’s credibility is jeopardized by results like these.

16 thoughts on “More bizarre results at wine shows”

  1. John McGeehan says:

    Who are the judges at this show? Are they flying over MW’s and experienced wine trade buyers to judge or just getting a few of their mates along who have no idea what they’re doing?

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      As Peter Nixon has commented earlier the judges are retailers (online, traditional, small, medium and large) and sommeliers. This show is unusual show in this regard.

  2. Scott Grieve says:

    I have no vested interest in this wine, but the 2016 Hardys The Chronicle 7th Green Cabernet Sauvignon was in bracket 26 of the Royal Sydney Wine Show. According to the results catalogue, the Panel Chair on that bracket was Corrina Wright. The International Judge was Mark Pygott MW. The Chair of Judges was Samantha Connew. Surely a trophy winning wine would have gone before these esteemed palates before being awarded a trophy?

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      Scott, all judges taste and vote on the trophy tastings, so, yes, they all got to taste that wine. I’m not privy to the ballot results of the trophy taste-offs, but a quirk of the system is that it is possible for a wine nobody placed first to come first in the count.

  3. John Lord says:

    As an enthusiastic wine student but with no expertise in judging or tasting I cannot comment on the judging aspects addressed in the conversations before. However, to me the key point about the “medals” is that they confuse the customer and do not add to their judgement in choosing a wine. The customer can be confused into thinking the wine is highly prized against all others, and whilst I am sure this is not deliberate, the wine industry as a whole has a commitment to educate, advise and inform the consumer. Surely we are now reaching the point where if “Gold Medals” are to be added/ claimed on the product for sale, that they must have on them, or on the container, what they were awarded for. After all it is the consumer who will scan the bottle for information, not the expert who may well know why the medal was awarded, or at least know where to go to find out. John L

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      Good comments John. The non-industry punter is understandably all at sea when confronted with a medal sticker. The producer is required by the show authorities to display on the sticker the year of the award and the class number as well as the proper name of the trophy/medal and the show, but you would have to have a paper catalogue (extremely unlikely) or look up the web-site (often difficult and time consuming) to find out what Class X or Y was for. Obviously to have all that info, in a legible type size, would require a rather cumbersome sticker.

  4. Peter Nixon says:

    Hello Huon

    As far as the MIWC goes, retailers (online, traditional, small, medium and large) and sommeliers are included. I should point out that the show (in which I was involved this year) is unique from most wine shows (exceptions include the likes of Decanter World Wine Awards which I have judged, and I believe you have chaired) requires the judges to consider value for money, first and foremost. As such, a double-gold for a sub $10 should be considered as a sub-$10.

    This certainly wasn’t apparent from some of the poor mainstream media resulting from regurgitated PT releases, suggesting a $6 winning was a fraction of the price of Grange – sacre bleu!

    I am sure you would recognise most large wine shows pull up random results – I wager if we were to review the Decanter World Wine Awards for any number of years we’d find at least a couple of eyebrow raisers (and plenty of great wines overlooked).

    And this certainly isn’t limited to wine shows. A comparison of the same wines featured in the recent Decanter magazine (available online) Australian Value Shiraz Vs Halliday Companion 2018 scores makes for interesting reading.

    Looking at wine en-mass invariably less than perfect – tending to favour opulent fruit-driven over the more structured and ageworthy wines (especially those which would benefit from a healthy decant).

    Having said all that, the best wine shows, with the most reliable results (including Winewise and Decanter) are those that look for experienced judges and experts in their genre, try to limit class size, total wines tasted and taste in regional/style. And use decent glassware – still at least one I know of using XL5s!

    1. Lester Jesberg says:

      Never judge wine in price categories. A good inexpensive wine will stand on its own two feet, and even a silver award will show that it’s value for money. Judging in price categories devalues gold medals. Some shows are clearly trying to be all things to all people, and very inexperienced people are judging at major events, something unheard of even a couple of decades ago. When I’m selecting judges, it’s all about balance – experience & youth, winemaker & non-winemaker, male & female. In the end, the buck stops with the Chair of the show. In that role, I don’t hesitate to reject wines if they’re not up to standard. It’s a tough stance, but Chairs who simply rubber-stamp should not be there.

      1. Peter Nixon says:

        No argument from me Lester, I was merely lamenting the depths the Australian mainstream wine media (not Huon) has sunk when they merely regurgitate poor media releases provided to them on a plate. This show does not conpare apples with apples, so to suggest a $6 wine is on a qualitative level with Grange is clearly a furphy.

    2. Greg Stevens says:

      I just looked at the FAQ for the MIWC and the medal system is somewhat vague.

      Bronze Medal- Our judges will sell it, distribute it and or import it
      Silver Medal- Our judges really like it and will sell it, distribute it and or import it.
      Gold Medal- Our judges love it and will sell it, distribute it and or import it.
      Double Gold- All of the judges on the panel award it a Gold Medal

      Are the wines tasted blind but have a price category provided ? I also wonder how often a buyer for a retailer would typically knock back a solid wine that had a less than desirable label design (how often are consumers just taking a bottle based on the label ?). So potentially is the label also considered? Is there anything else considered? Volume available ?

      Not that I buy my wine on medal performance, but based on this information (and thanks Huon for the article) I would much prefer to see a standard enforced across all shows where the end result is the ability to stick an accolade on a bottle. For example, the standard show medal point system and associated medal with an optional added category for value (although in reality this is already in place with a price sticker on the side)

      1. Peter Nixon says:

        Hi Greg, the MIWC id judged blind, RRP provided for each bagged wine. I should say though I was involved in the show.

        I support Lester’s view that value can (and should) be judged post qualitative assessment (as both Winewise and Decanter World Wine awards do).

      2. Scott Wilson says:

        I agree with Peter, the show does not compare apples with apples; however, in saying that, some of our the wines we submitted which have been judged by Huon certainly stood up and achieved similar results and scores.

  5. Giuseppe says:

    Are you saying retailers influenced the judges, or retailers cannot judge?

    1. Andrew Smith says:

      Wine show credibility is hitting new lows.
      its the McDonald’s factor, of the least controversial wines being pushed by 3 judges and 2 associates coupled with Chair/men/woman looking for light styles (and selecting the judges seeking them).

      1. John says:

        looking for fine and elegant and instead picking young and bright and simple. poor judging

    2. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      Neither. Just asking the question. It doesn’t look good. Justice has to not only be done, but be seen to be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *