Last week was the 123rd annual Rutherglen Wine Show and I was lucky enough to be invited as an Associate judge. No, this doesn’t mean I rigged the results! All the wines are tasted blind, and Associate judge’s scores don’t count anyway. I’ll explain the process.
Wines are entered into classes within the show, which are sorted by vintage and variety (eg. 2009 Shiraz, 2008 and older Chardonnay, 2010 Other red varieties or blends, etc). Each class is judged by a panel of judges. If it is a large class, it may be split up over 2 or 3 panels. In this case any wines which have been awarded a Silver or Gold medal will be re-judged to determine the final medal allocation. At this point I will explain that a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal does not mean that the wine came first, second or third. The medals are given on a points basis. Judges score wines out of 20. 15.5 points is a Bronze medal, 17 points is a Silver medal and 18.5 points is a Gold medal. So, there can be multiple gold medals awarded in a class. Or there can be none. The judging panels comprise of 3 Judges and 2 Associate judges. Each Judge and Associate has his / her own line-up of all the wines, and tastes and points each one blind (not knowing the producer) with no discussion. The Judges then convene and give a overall point score to each wine. This can be a simple add up and average of the Judges scores, or if there is discrepancy or disagreement between the scores, each judge will re-evaluate those particular wines and decide if they are prepared to adjust their score. The Associate Judges point all the wines and are involved in the discussion, but their points do not count towards the final scores. It is basically an experience and learning exercise for young people in the industry.
It was a great experience for me to taste and evaluate that many wines, and although it is very demanding and tiring, it was also a good deal of fun!