Why Should I Care About a Wine Competition? – What Meaning Do They Really Hold for Me?

The results for the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition were just announced for 2018! Such an exciting time to see wineries from all across North America display their team’s skills and dedication to winemaking.

Did you know there are wine competitions all year round?

Other wine competitions to keep an eye on are: Los Angeles International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition, The New York International Wine Competition and the Cascadia International Wine Competitions.

How do wine competitions work?    – 4 Key Factors


  1.  Wine Competition Judges

Who judges at a wine competition?

Typically, when choosing judges, wine competition organizers look for a diverse set of individuals.

Meaning that the judges are all from the wine industry, but with different backgrounds and specialties. Most often at wine competitions there is a mixture of sommeliers at different levels, wine sales people, wine makers and restaurateurs. This will provide different perspectives on the wines traits for the wine competition.

Therefore, the big requirements are that they have a lot of wine exposure (sometimes even daily), come from different regions to prevent bias when tasting the wines.

  1. Blind Tasting

How do judges stay unbiased during a huge wine competition?

Easy, a blind tasting!

No. That does not mean that the judges wear a blind fold fumbling around the table grabbing glasses. Each wine is assigned a number, so the judges do not know where the wines they are tasting came from.

A wine competition’s biggest goal is to keep everything bias free.

Wines are tasted by the varietal (type of wine), which the judges will know in advance. The wine competition organizers will be also providing the vintage (year the grapes were harvested). But no other information will be shared to hint where and what winery the wine came from.

How do judges not get drunk & mess up the scoring?


At wine competitions, wine judges must spit out the wine after tasting. If they drank all the wine, their judgement would be impaired and they will be drunk fast.  Judging takes a lot of focus and strong senses.

After the end of a long day at a wine competition judges are exhausted and have purple teeth!

  1. Taste Profile for Winning Varietals

What exactly are they judging the wine on during the wine competition?

Each wine is judged on these traits: clarity, aroma, bouquet, taste, aftertaste and overall quality. Each varietal has different traits and styles to take into consideration. Winemakers use these to express different charms and flavors.

A wine judge that is a wine maker will focus on technical traits. Understandably, a wine judge that is a restaurateur will focus on how well this wine would pair with food. Contrastingly, a wine sales person will focus on how the general public would like this wine.

Thus providing a fair and balanced judgement for the competition.

  1. What do the results mean?

How can there be 1 Gold, 5 Silver, 3 Bronze awards? Simple, each wine is judged on its own merits not in a ranking against each other.

What do the rankings really mean?

Bronze = Would drink the wine again. Means that the wine is somewhat enjoyable, experiences a few of the traits desired for this varietal.

Silver = Like the wine. This wine is enjoyable and fits most of the desired attributes for the varietal and wine making skill.

Gold = Love the wine. The wine demonstrates all the right attributes of the varietal and good wine making.

Double Gold = Phenomenal / Outstanding Wine. Must be voted on by all the judges unanimously. These are tasted again the following day to have a final vote.

How do awards help you?

Wine competitions are a great way to read where the wine industry is at that moment. In reality, the beauty of wine is that as it grows older, it changes and evolves!

For example, a wine that won in 2009 will taste very different from how it does now in 2018. (probably better, nothing ages like a fine wine)

As you are shopping for wine, pay attention to the most recent awards as they will deliver you the greatest current value!

There have been many cases where the same wine gets judged years apart and it has completely different ratings. For example, a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon being judged in 2016 may not have medaled. Contrast that to the same wine being judged in 2017, it wins Silver and then the next year in 2018 wins’ double Gold.

The wine world is so exciting because it is an ever changing form of art.


Another way to evaluate wine? Read our CKJY Exports’ recent blog post on Price vs. Quality

For more information & links used visit these sites:  




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