Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Taking one for the team

Columnist wades through hundreds of value wines so you don't have to

  • Print

I spent last week holed up at the University of Calgary's MacEwan Hall in a frigid room with peers from across the country. We swirled, sniffed, sipped (and spat) more than 1,000 wines as part of Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards (IVWAs); the idea of the competition is to find the best of what's available for under $25 across the country.

Separating the best from the rest is a fascinating, extremely rewarding experience (although my poor teeth and gums might tell a different tale). It's an exercise that gives all us judges a chance to reflect on what constitutes a great value wine. As wine critics and sommeliers, we're often pushing wines that are more off-the-beaten-track -- not as "mainstream"-- to the detriment of some of the most popular reds and whites in our markets. The IVWAs are a great way to remind us that some of the best value wines out there are also some of the most popular.

In other words, it's an exercise in humility.

How does the judging work? The first few days are the preliminary rounds -- all 1,000-plus wines submitted are organized into groups (or "flights") of six to 12 of one particular grape or region (or, in the case of red or white blends, by style). The wines are poured into numerically labelled glasses in the back room and then wheeled out to the IVWA judges, who are split into panels of three or four.

In other words, judges taste the wines blind -- we don't know which brands we're tasting. All the information we're given is the type of grape(s) in the bottle and that it costs $25 or less. We make notes and score each wine out of 100. A computer program crunches the numbers and the best-scored wines proceed to the final rounds. The process is repeated and the cream rises to the top (results are published in the October/November issue of Wine Access).

It's when we get to peruse our scores post-competition that judges learn the most about value wines available in Canada, and about which "mainstream" wines deserve more attention than we otherwise give them. Each judge receives a binder with his/her tasting notes and scores, as well as an answer key for each flight that reveals the producer and vintage of each wine. As we flipped through our binders post-judging, there were many raised eyebrows and heads shaken in disbelief as the best wines were revealed.

Are the "best" wines under $25 immediately and deliciously drinkable? Are they surprisingly age-worthy given their price? Do they best reflect the characteristics of their grape variety and/or origin? It depends on the grape variety or style of wine, but for me I'd need at least one "yes" answer to the above questions to consider a wine a great value. A $15 Pinot Grigio, for example, shouldn't end up in your cellar, but should deliver bright fruit, floral and mineral aromas/flavours as well as a vibrant freshness. It doesn't need to shift my paradigm -- it just needs to taste great as I sit in the sun on a patio.

 

NOTE: Judges don't learn the final overall scores until they're published in the fall -- these tasting notes are only my own, and I don't know how these wines fared overall.

uncorked@mts.net twitter.com/bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 E4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

HSC ready for Ebola

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you still on the Bombers' and Jets' bandwagons?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google