GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – I’m just about recovered from the three days of intensive work 19-21 August as a judge at the international wine competition in Sierre, the Mondial du Pinot Noir.
We tasted and noted 1,314 wines from 21 countries around the world; we were 50 judges from 30 countries who worked for three mornings judging about 45 wines each day, during three hours.
One of 12 top world competitions
The competition is organized by the Vinea Association, which either runs or handles the technical side of a number of international competitions, and I can only say the team behind it deserves a big cheer for impeccable organization. This is one of 12 international Vinofed world competitions that have the double patronage of the OIV (international vines and wine organization, based in Paris) and the UIOE, the international oenologists union.
We worked at tables of five, with each of us noting the wines using computers; when the clock time is up the table president announces the average note and if we have very different notes or a wine is close to, but not quite at the score for a medal, we have a brief discussion to try to come to an agreement.
The system works remarkably well, and most of the time the judges’ notes are surprisingly close.
When they are not, the discussions can be lively, are always interesting, and the wine benefits from a closer, second tasting.
All the Pinot family members show up
Most of the wines are Pinot Noirs, but for the past three years the competition has included other Pinots, with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc: Pinot Noir 65% and a special category “Pinot Noir world champion” 10.5%, still rosé wines 7.8%, Pinot Gris 7.2%, Pinot Blanc 3.8% and under 1% for the categories of sparkling white, sparkling rosé, and sweet/dessert wines.
A touch of gold – magic!
My happiest surprise came during my table’s final morning, when after a slightly disappointing first group with no gold medals we suddenly had four gold medals out of flight of 15 wines. Three were from canton Graubuenden, we later learned, and one was from Germany, but more than that I don’t know.
This was followed by a group of “discovery” whites, which I wasn’t sure I would care for or find convincing. The first turned out to be a gold medal winner: the five people at my table were quickly unanimous that it was a beautiful Pinot Blanc. My own notes for it show that it had a beautiful nose, is pleasantly mineral and very well balanced. Now to wait to find out what wine this is.
And I remember with great pleasure a truly elegant white sparkling wine we tasted Friday morning: my group began with sparkling wines, to the envy of some of the other tables, who pointed out that tasting sparkling wines first thing is a great way to begin. I agree! And our gold winner, it turns out, was from France. The French have not lost their touch.
These are the wines that make you sit up straight and say yes! That’s what we love about wine!
France and Germany show up in force
Switzerland, as the home country and a strong grower of Pinot Noir, entered 978 wines. Germany had 127 wines entered this year and if my table is any indication, its wines did well. France had 92 entries, Italy 22 and Austria 18.
The number of entries in the competition remained high despite the euro and the dollar being low against the franc because producers were able to pay for their entries in those currencies, I was told by Elisabeth Pasquier, the managing director of Vinea.
And the winners are … about to be unveiled
The winning wines will be named Friday 2 September and they’ll be available to the public immediately after, for a tasting session that is well worth it. This is the opening evening of the Vinea wine fair in Sierre, a feature of the fair that was started last year and proved very popular; before that, only the producers of the wines and journalists attending the awards ceremony were given the opportunity to sample these fine wines from around the world.