IWSC 2015

Day 4 and an overview of the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015:

After 60 – 70 wines per morning for four days, I’d like to think I could be forgiven for being a little late with this final blog about my experiences judging on the Spanish Panel of this year’s International Wine & Spirits Competition! Indeed, the more so when you consider that I was up at 04:55 hrs on the day after the last judging session, to make my connections in order to fly back to Spain!

Well, what an enjoyable experience, as it is every year, of course. It is such a pleasure to sit with like minded people, who invariably become friends, tasting wines from all over Spain and then, when the scores are in and the session over, discussing the wines and latest developments in the Spanish wine world.

And, being honest, I have to admit to a certain satisfaction and indeed delight at being asked for my views in such august MW-rife company! Of course I take my hat off to such highly qualified wine experts, not only the Masters of Wine, but others who clearly have such a profound knowledge of wine.

I admit to being in awe of such people so when my views are sought and when I’m given the opportunity to update here and there with the latest information from the Spanish wine world in the middle of which I live, well I’m glad to help, of course!

Plus, it’s a two way thing. Whilst Masters of Wine and their ilk have a huge and most enviable knowledge, understanding and experience of wine – there is, of course, nobody who knows everything! Not even those who teach and examine those who take the MW exams. Nobody – as wine-making is continuously evolving.

The wine world is dynamic. For example, 20 years or so ago innovative methods assisted by state-of-the-art technology totally transformed wine production in Rueda and brought the Verdejo variety to world acclaim. Look back also to whenever it was that stainless steel fermentation tanks, now considered an integral part of every winery, were invented. Again a whole new grape game followed.

I wonder if in 20 years I’ll be looking back at the technology/wine styles/wines/wine accessories/knowledge/etc of today a displaying at least a wry smile if not a full on belly-laugh!

Day 4, my final day the the IWSC 2015, but not the last day of the Spanish Panel – there are three more this week, as well as days scheduled for other country’s (lesser!!) wines – was a super way to end! One wine enjoyed so much in Room No.1 where I was lucky enough to have been, was awarded the top prize – Gold Outstanding.

You’ll have to wait until the results are published to find out which though – and in case you are wondering, so will I!

The IWSC is very professional – we taste out of numbered glasses, the numbers corresponding to the actual wine which is poured in secret before being brought in to the panel. No phones are allowed  during judging, which is done in silence so as not to influence fellow judges.

Each room has a ‘Chair’, a lady or gentlemen, always with lots of previous experience judging at the IWSC and invariably with a most impressive CV in the wine business. Often, but not always, the ‘Chairs’ are Masters of Wine.

Before judging starts all present are asked to taste two example wines about which we are told their country/area of provenance and often the grape variety and to judge them – scores are collected by the ‘Chair’. If there is a great divergence, for example with some marking the wine in the Gold category whilst others mark it as being outside the medals, then judges are asked to justify their marks.

A discussion will take place and if no agreement is reached then these wines could be sent for review by the other room. Plus further example wines could be brought in.

This has never happened when I’ve been there!

If, as has always been the case with me, the judges are more or less in accord then the first ‘flight’ of wines will be brought in for us to assess and score. And so it goes on! 60, 70 or more(!) wines later, we adjourn to lunch where we chat about all things wine! Great!

One of our discussions this year was about the rise and rise of Prosecco sales in the UK and the toll that this has taken on Cava sales. Somebody wondered if this might affect the cava makers, making them lean towards a sweeter style.  Heaven preserve us – is my answer to that!

When Cava was first made here in Spain, before it even had the name ‘Cava’ it was basically just an attempt to copy Champagne – for a number of reasons, too many to discuss here, it failed. Fortunately somebody had the multi-billion Euro (pesetas in those days, and more of them!) business saving idea of saying, and this is a rough translation(!), ‘No let’s not copy, let’s use our own varieties, let’s be proud of what we do here in Spain, let’s be an alternative to Champagne, not a copy!’.

I rest my case re any possible change in Cava land!

Well that’s it for this four part blog about the IWSC 2015. I hope it was of interest? I’d be delighted to receive any comments/suggestions/questions you may have, of course.

Next Blog – well, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about when I visit Spain’s largest Spanish Wine Fair, Fenavin, in Ciudad Real in early May.

Thanks for your time.