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IVWAs, Day 3: bring on the finals

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Today wrapped up the preliminary rounds of Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards, meaning the behind-the-scenes folk are tabulating the scores and preparing new flights for the judges of the final rounds (of which I am one) as I type this. We managed to get through six sets of wine by lunchtime, meaning I had the afternoon to myself. 

The dry rosé flight we started the morning with was uneven at best, and included a sweet pink Moscato, a White Zinfandel, a sparkling pink and a dog's breakfast of other grapes. Only one or two managed to impress. Next up was Grenache Noir/Garnacha (depending on where you're from), a group of nine reds that brought some renewed hope to our panel. Many Garnacha wines come from Spain, so it was some consolation that they were good relative to the outcome of the Spaniards' World Cup loss to Switzerland.

Viognier was up next — it's typically a fairly heavy, complex white wine with nice tropical fruit and spices on the palate. There were a couple of great ones, and one that brought some debate on our panel. It was very heavily-oaked and in a very commercial style, with heaps of oak aging — think of a big California Chardonnay's oak and you're on the right track. Myself and Gurvinder Bhatia, a fellow panelist, didn't like the heavy-handed use of oak on the wine, while panel leader John Szabo defended it admirably. A second panel that tasted the same wines were brought into the discussion, with two liking it and one deploring it. So we ended up 3-3 on the darn wine, deciding to put it through to the finals and let a larger group taste it again.

With only one red wine flight under our belt, we were surprised to get yet another group of whites - this time Gewurztraminer. They're often similar to In some ways they're like a lighter version of Viognier or a spicier version of Riesling, and our flight ranged from bone-dry and flinty (a personal preference, although the other judges didn't agree) to slightly sweet. We expected much more from this flight.

Next up was one lonely Italian Primitivo, which we tasted alone. I'm not really sure why. We put it through - maybe we felt a bit sorry for it. The final flight of the morning was a mixed bag of reds featuring such grapes as Pinotage (a South African variety), Xinomavro and Agiorghitiko (both Greek red grapes). The Pinotages failed to impress (maybe too many vuvuzelas on the brain), while some of the Greek wines were solid.

Random notes: The weather here has been terrible — rain and under 14 degrees Celsius yesterday and today... I didn't get lost today, which is always a plus... I did, however, go to the gym for the third day in a row. Before this trip I had never been to a gym, and figured with free passes available to the Kinesiology Centre facilities, this trip would be a good chance to "try before you buy". After a half an hour on the bike today and half an hour on the treadmill yesterday, I feel like I've been riding a camel... 

For the latest on the IVWAs, follow me on Twitter, keep your eye on the #IVWA hashtag  for related tweets from others, and check out some pics posted by Wine Access on their Flickr account.

 

 

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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