15 October 2004

Judging at Veritas and Absa Top 10

I was honoured to be invited to judge at Veritas and the Pinotage ABSA Top 10 competition. Veritas judging covered four days. On the first day I was on a panel judging Cape Blends, then Pinotage until Wednesday. The last day I judged Ruby Cabernet and 'other' red varieties, including Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Mouvedre etc.

Judges sit in booths with a tasting sheet that names only the cultivar and vintage. Wines in groups of ten poured into ISO glasses which are brought on a tray. After tasting, the judges move to a table in another room, disclose their scores and discuss the wines. In rare cases of wide variation in scores, wines are called back for a retaste. Candidates for Gold & Double Gold are also re-tasted.

Pinotage Top 10 judging took place on the Friday of Veritas week, and followed the same process, except this time we looked for the best 20 wines out of those submitted. We then retasted all 20 finalists to make our final selection of the Top 10.

I was very aware that in my glass was the result of the efforts of a lot of people over a year, and I had to be fair to them, but also fair to consumers who use competitions for their purchasing decisions.

So why wasn't there a exact match between Veritas and Top 10? There are several reasons: not all wines were entered for both competitions, judging panels were different and the wines came from different bottles. Anyone who opens multiple bottles of the same wine at the same time will have experienced bottle variation.

At no time did judges know the identity of the wines they tasted, and we had no advance notice of winners.

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