Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wine Competitions: Are They Utilized

I read two very interesting articles yesterday about Wine Competitions and the awarding of Gold Medals. I mention this because a few hours prior to reading them, I took my list of winners from the New York Wine and Food Classic and went shopping for wines on that list.
Both articles were a little harsh on the competitions and the awarding of medals, for a similar reason, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, published by American Association of Wine Economists.

I am not a connoisseur, a sommellier, a wine expert or a journalist. I am just an average Joe wine consumer who happens to buy some wines because of press releases and store tags or medal displays at the wineries. Although some, or even many, journalist in the industry may not agree with the competitions or their value to the winery, I believe they can be a great asset.
The problem is in the marketing of their winners.

I shop at at about 12 different stores for wine. I see in every store, by many of the price tags, wine ratings from the Spectator, Enthusiast, Advocate and other pubs, but never see any mention of how any wine did in competitions. The general public is not aware of any of this.
There may be a mention in one of the 4 page weekly papers, distributed in and around a local winery. After all, most wineries are near small villages in rural areas and local papers are hungry for anything local to print.
I read nothing of the New York Wine and Food Classic in the Syracuse papers and I see nothing about a great bottle of Riesling from Anthony Road Vineyards being named the outstanding New York wine for 2009 in any local paper outside the Geneva-Rochester area which is not far from that winery. I only know this because I blog, I read wine blogs and have a fondness for Finger Lakes wines.

If it is shown in a report that medal winners do not improve sales or does not make for a good wine, shouldn't the consumer, most of whom do not give a rats ass about ratings, make that decision. When a consumer walks into a local shop and sees two aisles of New York Wines, don't you for a moment think that displaying competition results won't improve sales of that wine.

Among the other titles I am not qualified for is Marketing Expert, but I don't see any effort by wineries to advertise through their distributors the results of competitions. This should also be on the agenda of the many associations that promote their region or their State's wines. I would love to walk down that aisle of New York wines and see some kind of tag under the display that indicates a gold or double gold winner and what event it was awarded at.

Another effort should be made to help advise the local shops about the competitions and awards.
In my case, I had a complete list of winners for the the New York Wine and Food Classic. I showed it to the owner of one of the larger shops in this area. Actually they have three large stores. He had no idea what I gave him. I would love to walk into a wine shop, ask about New York wines and have a salesperson say something like; "Here is a nice bottle of Thirsty Owl 2008 dry Riesling which just recently was named the best dry Riesling in NY by so and so" instead of "dry Riesling? Yeah I think there's some over there."

Enough with the rant! It was not my intent to do this on this blog, but it did somehow come out.

To read more about this and to understand a bit more, please read Amy Corron Power's blog and Alder Yarrow's blog Vinography.Com. These are two of the best wine blog writers you'll find on the net. I just don't agree totally on this issue.

To read an opposing view of the above two blogs, check out Joe Roberts blog

Read the articles and let me know your thoughts.


The Wine Whore said...

I loved the rant! :)

Everyone seems to focus more on the big guys scores (Wine Spectator, etc) instead of the awards that are being won. Is it because people don't give enough credit to such awards?

I think if more people saw it the way you and I do, there would be a shift. Until then, everyone will keep looking for the bottle of the month that either Parker or Wine Spectator decides is "the best". I guess when I think of it, maybe this is a good thing. If these "big guys" drive up don't endorse these wines, it may prevent the price from going through the roof and you and I can enjoy a good bottle of wine without an inflated price tag.


Shelly said...

I think your right and that was my first draw to the Barefoot wines. I know a lot of people think they are garbage, but I happen to enjoy a few of them. When I first saw a bottle with their scores from the California State Fair displayed on each winning bottle, it encouraged me to try them.

On a side note:
I stopped at the local 7-11 yesterday for something and happened to take a look at their wine selection. They use to carry two or three brands but now have more like seven. After reading your discussion with Randy on FB and knowing you are headed this way...I thought I'd mention that they had Clos du Bois Chardonnay and Merlot...$ 7-11!!

joeshico said...

Randy, I don't believe the prices would be driven up that much. The ratings do that, displaying your medals will just help sell.
Shelly, Thanks for the tip. Will be in Alexandria on 13th. In VaBeach on the 14th - 17th.

WineLife365 said...

I read both Amy and Alder's posts as well and didn't totally agree with them either. But, I do feel that they were presenting the facts very honestly and accurately. Whenever you dilute an award such as a gold medal that is meant to be a prestigious honor down to a $75.00 entry fee, is pretty ridiculous. Someone was bound to spill the beans on this sham sooner or later.

But, I also agree with you, in that touting the fact that your wine just won a gold medal (regardless of the circumstances) can be an effective way create a buzz around a wine. It may not be as effective as receiving a 90+ rating from the big boys, but, consumers will take notice of any achievements that one wine receives over a bottle that doesn’t communicate its achievements.

Lastly, I love that Shelly pointed out Barefoot Wines. Great call Shelly! They sure seem to win a lot of these bogus “gold medals”. The last time that I checked, their sales numbers were damn near close to Yellow Tail’s annual sales numbers.

- I guess that by putting snickers on your bottles saying “I’m a Gold Medal Winner” really is a waste of time. – Just ask the folks at Barefoot Wines…

WineLife365 said...

Meant to say stickers not snickers...but that might help to sell a wine too! said...

The plethora of gold medals that adorn relatively common wines demonstrates that wine appreciation is subjective and largely determined by individual preferences and ability to discern the subtleties of each wine.

Innovative Wine said...

I read the report the blogs are talking about early this year and am surprised that it took this long to become an issue. The study shows nothing more than the fact that wine judges are human having, much like wine drinkers, different palates.

What has amazed me are some of the comments by people who seem to want to string up the judges and competition organizers for giving medals to wines they "would never". The comments prove, to me anyway, that many of these wine snobs have no real life understanding of what judging wine is all about. It is not about agreeing with them. It is about looking for wines that are well made and deserve medals, in the opinion of the judge on that day.

I judge at some of the competitions used in the study and that the judges take the award process very seriously. Every one of them strives to give medals to the wines they feel deserve them but it is a subjective process.

Wines that are flawed do not make it through a panel of three or four judges. Each individual judge may miss something due to the wine tasted previously masking a flaw but the other judges are going to pick it up. This is the benefit of panels.

Wines which I would not award a gold medal sometimes are scored high by others and my scores do not always agree with theirs. Does this make the process meaningless?

Medals are a marketing tool to sell wine. Otherwise wineries would have no incentive to enter.

It will never be perfect but it gives a consumer confidence that "someone" liked the wine. Personally, I think it has as much relevance as a Spectator score or one from Parker. I don't always like the wines they rate highly either.

It will be interesting to watch where this all goes. People can, after all, see for themselves if following these recommendations help them find better wine. If it doesn't, try something else.

Great post!

joeshico said...

Thank you for the comment Winelife365, I believe that most of the 'wine "so called" experts' never take into consideration the average wine buyer and what marketing tools leads them to certain wines. I also appreciate what you noticed about Shelly's comment, she has a terrific blog you should follow.
Innovative Wine: I wish I could have said this as well as you. I also believe that scores given by the leading pubs are very subjective and not any more important than showing how well a wine does in competitions.

David William said...

I love the wine you recommended.Could you introduce some wine linked to health or beauty?

WineWonkette said...

Wow! Thanks for the compliment. I agree with you that wineries don’t seem to promote their competition awards as much as they do their ratings. Part of this is because a Parker rating of 91 can sell a lot more wine than a “gold” at the Texas State Fair Wine Competition (except in Texas, of course)

But I also think it’s a matter of convenience for wine stores. It’s not so much that wineries don’t promote their competition winnings at all, plenty send out press releases. But Wine Spectator allows one to automatically generate a “shelf talker” from the Wine Ratings site. If I’m a busy wine retailer, it’s much easier for me to hit “print” and tape something under my bottles, than to take the time to create my OWN shelf talkers from a press release.

And I’m not of the mind that medals aren’t helpful to a wine consumer. But it should be one of many ways to gather information about a wine and not the only indicator of quality.

Again, thanks for your kind words. And thanks for reading Another Wine Blog!