Admit it, when seeing one you are going to give a closer look at that wine with a medal rather than listening to the wine shop owner. That’s perfectly fine that’s the medal effect. Still, can you really trust that sticker?
The wine expert that I am or still working hard to be will of course tell you that no medal can replace someone who has been making the selection for his/her customers. Then again I also am honest enough to give real honest advice and so medals can be good pointers.
Here is a simple rule not to make any mistake and as usual it falls into the “Do your homework” category. Indeed you need to know your medals and how they are awarded. It is as simple as that. Here’s why.
First you need to understand that, for most of them, medals and awards are a business. Maybe you noticed otherwise or you didn’t know but most of the people or companies behind medals and awards do not do that just for the fun of it. So entering the competition (for domaines and estates) and getting printed medals have costs and you only buy medals to stick on your bottles when you are awarded one (if you get me).
Then, and it’s probably the most important part, not all awards are created equal ie. some are serious, some are not, some are just a way to get free bottles and cash for the lucky company organising it. The recipe to see if everything checks out is fairly easy. When you see a medal use a smartphone or iphone and try to find information about this award:
- Do you actually find something, a website, a press release, a record of past medals?
- Can you check out how many bottles/samples were tasted by category? Yes a gold medal is an amazing award but if the Gold awarded wine is only standing out from a category with 3 other wines that’s not really relevant.
- Do you know who is making the selection? For that particular question there is no good or bad answer just the one you feel is appropriate or not. For example the jury can be open to non professionals which can be good to have the point of view from this very portion of society. It can be a jury where a mix of pros and amateurs meet. It can also be a jury tasting behind closed doors which happens to be the award organisation team, it can be random people willing to taste at an event, …
- Do you know how the selection made? Again there is no wrong or right at that stage as long as the wines are blind tasted. However the way the selection is made will tell you a lot about the worth of a medal. The standard version seems to be a group of tasters doing there thing at a table and pre-selecting wines that can be re-tasted by a super jury if the total number of wines is big enough. Of course this only works if every single taster is not influenced by a louder, more impressive, seemingly more professional member of the jury. The behind closed doors way finds its limits when pure business come into play. There is also a very professional way to it. I know of only one organisation crazy enough to use it but that is making the medals even more worthy. Feminalise and Burgondia are the competitions and the incredible thing is that your seating at a table with 3 or 4 other tasters but, and that’s the amazing part, you will not taste the same wines. No influence, just the concentration on being the best taster ever. Before you ask, the final result is not based on your shoulders and your shoulders only. You have actually been tasting the same wines as 2 or 3 other co-tasters who were scattered around the room. A gold medal is something that has been awarded by all the tasters and they couldn’t talk about it now that is a worthy medal.
So there you go medals can indeed be a good reference. Choosing to use that reference is your responsibility to rely on a competition or award you know or don’t know. Still remember that a medal can’t listen and won’t talk to you while the wine shop owner …