Marketing,Wine,Wine Competitions

31st Annual Riverside International Wine Competition with a Twist

It’s been a while since I’ve touted the virtues of a wine competition; not because it’s not been worth it, but because there’s not been anything new under the sun, in my thinking.

I believe in them, regardless of the fact that it involves so many palates and a collective opinion is formed. Having been in wine marketing for as long as I’ve been, I know the benefits of a gold or silver medal. I agree with most people that getting a bronze medal, even though it hold its weight, is like being kissed by someone you don’t care for. I wish it wasn’t true, but coming in first is the best, coming in second is so close, but third place… Arg, I don’t want to be in third place for anything. Now, if it were a numerical score (like 87), or had a recommendation from a credible wine writer, I’d think differently… I can work with that.

Wine writer Dan Berger, of Vintage Experiences and the competition’s originator told me:

“Wineries that receive gold medals will get a signed quotation from one of our senior judges about why the wine was so highly rewarded, for use in marketing. And we offer special awards, including four trophies for the best Rieslings.

“We also now offer case cards, medal certificates, shelf talkers, table tents, and bottle stickers all free of charge and will provide a link to all winners’ web sites without charge as well. Our database is the best in the industry (www.RiversideWineCompetition.com or wwwRIWC.net), and our judges are professionals of the highest caliber (they include Wilfred Wong of BevMo and Barbara Hermann, wine buyer for Binny’s in Chicago). You may see a list of the 2012 judges on our site.”

Having those important tasting notes from one of their panel judges becomes money in the bank for wine companies, having helped a lot of people find ways to make money from third party endorsements. This isn’t a first, mind you. I’ve always loved Robert Whitley of Whitley on Wine’s Critic’s Challenge, when he first started quoting his wine judges. He even expanded that into his Sommelier and Winemaker challenges. This is solid added value thinking that will help wineries market their scores, and help to keep wine competitions alive.

The biggest twist for the Riverside competition is that Dan Berger has added another layer to his tasting process.

Wine competitions already have this process:

  • Tasting by variety
  • Tasting in similar price categories

Now you can add:

  • Tasting by region

Dan explains:

“This year we will judge all wines on the basis of appellation. As such, imported wines and wines from far-flung regions will be judged by region (Oregon Pinot Gris against only Oregon Pinot Gris). This allows our judges to reward wines based on terroir characteristics. We believe terroir should play a role in consumer evaluations of medals at major wine competitions.

This just makes such perfect sense to me. Petite Sirahs from Paso Robles, for instance, are very much different than Petites from Mendocino County. It would be easy for a judge who is looking for rich, ripe fruit that comes from a warmer climate like Paso to not evaluate the Mendocino County one as favorably, because Mendocino Petite’s are more reserved… It’s like evaluating the light and breezy party girl against the pensive and thoughtful biologist in a room. It’s apples to oranges and it’s not logical in either instance to compare. Each has its place, especially when thinking about wine and food choices.

So, I know that Dan is onto something really important. It’s going to be a bigger organizing routine, as any organizer can imagine, but the results are really important for great story lines. Also, it will be the beginning of defining terroir, and Dan’s long been a fan of this one. Having been involved with so many aspects of petite Sirah for so long, I’ve done this one informally, and can talk pretty literately about each terroir region. Now, I’ll have more people to back up my thinking.

Got wine?

Get it entered. You’ll have lots of bragging rights with this one.  www.RiversideWineCompetition.com


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