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The tasting season

Published:  18 January, 2007

It's time one again to polish the killer heels for all the wine industry awards' nights.

So, August has hung its head in shame and limped away and the so called "quiet season" is over. Now in September we face probably the busiest month of the year. Yes, its's the tasting season.

Not only that but it's time to polish the killer heels for all the wine industry awards' nights.

But as we ready ourselves in anticipation have we stopped to consider whether the cost, effort and time is really merited.

In 2007's competitive world, are nights of (over?) long speeches, (over?) cooked lamb and (over?) indulgence really relevant to hard bitten buyers, winemakers and commercial teams?

There is a huge amount of criticism levelled at the various competitions. But in a marketplace dominated by headlines about the devaluing of wine - and retail execution of the category - I would contend the show system in the UK is clear proof of the health of our industry.

The standard of entries my fellow judges and I see is testament to the incredible passion and dedication of the world's winemakers who choose to market their products to UK consumers. Equally, the high level of improvement in the quality of entries is remarkable - why do producers/retailers/merchants enter huge numbers of wines, if, as is sometimes, touted, there is little value?

Our system is revered and respected internationally. We may still be in the infancy of winemaking as a country, but we are the Champions League of wine shows.

Most crucially, awards offer the industry a chance to talk to consumers in ways that showcase what we are best at. In an age, where we are all seeking the Holy Grail, of engaging the consumer to experiment and trade up, award winners, play a crucial part in creating confidence at the point of sale. Medals, especially the nice gold ones, sell wines.

But we should also be using the recognition and achievements to communicate far more clearly to the millions of wine drinkers who are still desperate for guidance and help, but often don't want to ask?

The awards season is a rare opportunity to spend time together as colleagues building the category rather than focusing on our competitive differences. The wine industry is unique in that we can appreciate the best, whoever gets the award. Oh, and the chance to buy a new frock should never be squandered!