Once the gold medal has been confirmed, “Guard the bottle like a baby”. I could spend hours writing the value of these awards, who is Spurrier, consultant editor of Decanter magazine in London and its prestigious Awards. But this sentence, one of the most important instructions received during the training as a staff member of the event, could not be more communicative than this. Decanter is a monthly magazine of wines, liqueurs and spirits and on the 2004, has launched a contest that includes a tasting of wines coming from all over the world and today is among the most influential on a global scale.
Let’s start with a first article about some curiosities that I snatched from behind the scenes of the event, which took place between late April and early May (2014). So, with the opening sentence I might have satisfied curious readers, now I try to convince even the picky ones! The judging process is straight: more than 200 judges are carefully selected and evaluated (and I will explain how) and grouped by areas of production, each panel then is chaired by a senior judge. From Monday to Friday they collaboratively taste the wines (grouped by type: blend or designation such as Chianti rather than Brunello di Montalcino, Greek di Tufo, Chianti Classico Riserva, and so on) delivering a tasting sheet including the awards for each wine: gold medal, silver, bronze or “commended”. At the end of the batteries presidents of the different panels taste together the wines that far rewarded with a gold medal and strictly preserved by the staff … just as if they were children! So they can confirm gold medals (or not, in this case switched to silver) and even selected what I call “the gold from the gold ones” the fateful “Regional Trophy”, the important award on a national scale! The regional trophies participate in the tasting to assign the international awards, then, on a global scale. What are the areas of production, though? Meaning the countries the wines come from: USA, South Africa, UK, Eastern Europe and so on … this grouping does not work for countries such as France and certainly Italy where there are even sub-divisions: Tuscany, Veneto, Piedmont, Southern Italy, other regions as well as for France: “French” wines do not exists on the contrary we have Bordeaux, Champagne, Languedoc and so on!
While working there I had the opportunity to ask Spurrier some questions, first of all: “How do you select judges and how do you evaluate their work?”. Spurrier, with exquisite cordiality, replies: “we started 11 years ago with about 60 judges, today we have more than 200 highly specialized, I do not select them in person but if I meet professionals during my travels I report it to my staff and my vice; moreover we care about advices of our regional chairs. Once placed the group we do random checks, such as verifying whether a judge is constantly at odds with the rest of the panel for instance. In general we give high much attention to the experience they have in this kind of competition”. This is the secret of the success of Decanter: whether you win or not, you got 2 opposite but very useful information thanks to the extreme competence of the panels, moreover we are British” he adds “we do not have a major wine production, so we are neutral in judgment!”
But after a countdown that has created great excitement on the site of Decanter we can finally take a look at the results, you can visit their website here, filter the info you like (country, kind of medal and so on) and discover the winners over a total of about 15,000 wines competitors!
What has emerged, already in May while I was there to London is the undisputed success of France and the countries of the so-called new world (such as Canada, South Africa, as well as supermarket chains in the UK is that of the U.S.), what is the expert advice of Decanter about it? I will comment the results in the next article I am going to publish in a couple of days: follow me!