Steven Spurrier analyses the results of the Sommelier India Wine Competition which was conducted along the lines of international competitions and endorses their validity. Editor’s Note: This article appears in the current issue of Sommelier India WINE magazine which was mailed in early January to subscribers.
Much has been written about the planning and organisation of the inaugural Sommelier India Wine Competition that, however much admiration I have for ‘the competition that inspires confidence’, I can add nothing more. The names of the judges – a veritable who’s who of the Indian wine scene – who gave so generously of their time, have also been recorded. My comments on their professionalism and dedication appear elsewhere in this issue. However, what I would like to comment on here is the nature of the results.
For wine competitions to have value for both the producer and the consumer, it is important that every single wine is judged by independently-minded professionals in conditions where the wines will give of their best. The glasses (Riedel, of course), the temperature of service, the service itself, everything has to be of the highest standard and I am glad to say that at the ITC Grand Central this was the case. So in my view, as Chairman of the SIWC – and equally Chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Japan Wine Challenge where the judging follows similar lines – the results have validity.
It must be remembered that wine competitions are the joint opinion of the judges at a particular point in time. The same table – in this case a table of three judges – judging the same wines the next day might well come up with a different result. A different table judging the same wines on the same day would be unlikely to offer an exact copy of their colleagues’ rankings.
On the day of the competition, wines that showed poorly did not receive compensation and wines that showed well, did. Out of a total of 415 wines, 225 (54.2%) received an award, with 18 Golds (4.3%), 64 Silvers (15.4%), 96 Bronzes (23.1%) and 47 Commendeds (11.3%).
A closer look at the SIWC results show that of the 312 imported wines, 62.5%wonawardsona4.8%,18.6%,27.6%and11.5%basis for gold, silver, bronze and commended. By contrast, the 103 Indian wines gained only 29.1% awards,with 2.9% Gold, 5.8% Silver, 9.7% Bronze and 10.7% Commended. The conclusion, obvious enough, is that the imported wines were better than the Indian wines, but a little more analysis is useful.
The rules of the competition were that while all wines produced in India were eligible, only those international wines already imported into the country could enter. In both the DWWA and the JWC (neither the UK nor Japan are significant wine producing countries but both are significant markets for imported wine) all international wines even those not yet imported could be submitted. The producers hoped that after being judged by experts the wines would attract attention and find an importer.
Not so at the SIWC. If one assumes that few Indian importers would go out of their way to import poor wine (particularly with the stringently expensive taxes that are imposed before sale) a ratio of almost two-thirds awards for international wines from the qualified judging panels, whose instructions were to reward quality, is quite acceptable. That less than one-third of the Indian wines were recognised in this way could mean two things: one that they were simply not good enough and, two, that the judges might have been more severe with their home-grown wines than with the more expensive, imported varieties.
My view is that it was a bit of both, and that the message Indian wine producers should take away from the inaugural SIWC is that only consistent quality in the glass will assure regular sales to contented clients. The aim in judging wine in such a competition is not simply to “separate the wheat from the chaff”, but to recognise and reward quality.
Wines are not judged against each other, but individually, like-with-like in small flights. It is just as inconceivable that 100 wines judged this way would receive 100 awards as it is that they would receive 0 awards. Everything being equal, good wines will receive awards and poor wines will not. If Indian wineries put quality first, the rewards will come. Let us hope that this time next year this will be the case!