Saturday, December 1, 2012

Judging at VinItaly

A few weeks ago, I was one of 105 individuals who served as a judge for the VinItaly Wine Competition, held at Veronfiere in Verona, the same building where the annual VinItaly wine far is held in late March/early April.

I was invited several months ago by Carlo Alberto Delaini, director of the VeronaFiere Press Office; I accepted at once, as I was happy to be invited and also curious about how this event would work. Now having participated as a judge, I can tell you that this experience was first-rate and exceeded my expectations.

Whenever I head to Italy (this was my 54th trip there), I see many long-time friends I've come to know over the past decade. Of course, I always make new friends as well and what a great experience to meet journalists from around the world. This time, I met new friends from countries such as Maylasia, Slovenia, Germany, France, China and Argentina. How nice it is to sit down with these people over lunch and dinner and talk to them about their experiences and thoughts on Italian wine!

A great thing about this event was that I was also able to meet winemakers (enologists, if you will) from all over the world as well. As a foreign journalist, I was part of a five person commission to judge wines. Each commission was comprised of three journalists - two foreign and one Italian - as well as two winemakers, one from Italy and one foreign. It made for a nice mix of expertise and stylistic decisions and assured that each wine would be fairly judged.

This was the 20th anniversary year for this competition and it's obviously grown over the years; more than 3000 wines were entered in the competition. Each commission over five days would taste approximately 160-180 wines (40 wines on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a few less on Monday and Friday). Wines were entered from seemingly everywhere on the planet - name a country and you could pretty much be assured that there was a wine from that nation. Of course, Italian wines made up most of the entries, but there were also wines from Romania, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France and dozens of other lands. Wine styles ranged from the lightest sparkling wines and ros├ęs to the most full-bodied red wines, some of which were decanted by the ultra professional staff of Italian sommeliers.

This was a great experience for me, being able to judge wines as varied as Lambrusco, Prosecco, lush dessert wines and numerous vibrant whites and full-bodied reds. We were given a category number for the wines we were tasting, so we only knew for example that the sparkling wines were from 2011 for one category, while for another the reds were from either 2010 or 2009. You could make educated guesses as to what you were tasting, but you really didn't know, which I thought was a good thing, as it made you focus your attention on judging each wine individually. I've since learned a few of the wines I tasted and liked and there were some pleasant surprises.

Here is a complete list of the winning wines.

I want to thank the sommeliers for the professionalism, my fellow judges and the organizers for a wonderful week in Verona!


  1. "This was a great experience for me, being able to judge wines as varied as Lambrusco...' ....which will - hopefully - be served in 'red wine glasses' at the 21st. edition. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment, James!

    I actually scored one Lambrusco with 96 points - yes, it was that good! When I asked a fellow judge for his opinion, he said it was too dry! Imagine, not liking a Lambrusco because it's too dry. Looks like we have to teach them a few things! -:)

    Have a wonderful Christmas!