The International Wine Challenge (IWC) is acknowledged as the worlds’ largest wine competition. Every year some 400 judges (of which I am one) gather in London to taste, assess and spit the merits of wines from across the globe. I was invited to judge at the IWC in 2004, and I have judged every year since. The wines I have tried range from the extraordinary to the downright curious. Some of the more unusual wines include aromatic whites from Denmark, interesting reds from India & Georgia, and sparklings from Brazil, to that add vintage champagne, aged barolo, bordeaux, Yarra Valley pinots, & stunning malmsey madeiras to name just a few.
Spanning two weeks, the IWC has a rigorous system where any trophy winning wine will have been tasted up to 6 separate occasions. Wines can be awarded Commended, bronze, silver or gold medals. All gold medal winners are then put forward for trophies, judged separately the following week. Winners are announced at the London International Wine Trade Fair and the Trophies are announced several months later in September.
Unlike the show systems in Australia where it is normal to taste 40-60 wines in a single flight; the IWC limits the flights to no more than 12 wines per flight. This gives judges an excellent opportunity to carefully asses each wine. There are usually 20 panels of international judges (consisting of 4 experts each, for example there is often someone that holds a Master of Wine, a buyer, a wine writer & a winemaker,). All judges on the panel write notes and score each wine out of a possible 100 points. I am a strong supporter of the IWC approach. Such a system allows the more subtle wines to shine through and there are always more than one panel that assess the wines. This gives the wine a thorough, considered and broad assessment which the Australian show system does not offer.
Judging is always a privilege, to be privvy to wines made from across the globe and to have an influence on their success or failure is significant. Further it provides an insight to the vintage and global trends. Every April I vanish for two weeks to taste my way around the globe and to have my say, I am humbled by the experience particulary when I am judging with some of the world’s best & experienced palates.