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Wine competitions offer spark but no fire

It is that time of year when all sorts of wine competitions take place and announce theirĀ annual procession of gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

Countless self-congratulatory press releases, blog posts, status updates and adverts will blast out in a storm of activity that will effectively drown out the benefit of any one win and leave only one certain winner, the competition itself.

All spark, no fire

All spark, no fire (photo by Daniel Dionne)

Not only did the competition receive the fees, and it is the only constant in each and every message. Free branding. Well done! Have a Gold Medal for that!

Judging the ‘best spark’

I’ve been considering the vastness of the wine world and I understand the need to find a way to stand out from that crowd, but I am not at all certain that a wine competition with thousands of entries, and thousands of “winners” really helps.

Judging wines in an annual contest is a bit like judging the ‘best spark’ around a campfire. Millions are produced, some may even be brighter than others, but ultimately they all fade and leave little or nothing behind. What we should be looking for are those that can, and do, light the bloody fire and make something happen!

You’d think that after sitting in the dark, judging the intensity, duration and colour of the sparks flashing before their eyes, the judges themselves might ask themselves, “What’s the point”?

Some competitions may have stricter rules, more numerous categories, or more “qualified” judges, but fundamentally they are all doing the same thing.

What I long for personally is a competition that looks holistically at a wine – maybe at a track-record of quality production, but also at the story, the tradition or innovation, the ability to engage with consumers and more. Awards that are like achieving a masters degree not just aceing a school report.

Measuring the intensity of the fire produced, not the momentary spark.

Who can offer me that? I might then care about the results.

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