Here We Go Again

The stretch of time between early October and the end of November is a busy time for any winery. For wine consumers, there seems to be an endless stream of editorial dedicated to the latest results of some wine competition. Intervin, the Canadian Wine Awards, the International Wine and Spirits Competition, the Okanagan Spring and Fall Wine Festival Awards, the Northwest Wine Summit, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award, and the All Canadian Wine Awards are all part of the deluge of wine awards that we see here in BC. It is only really in the early new year when all those awards can really be digested and considered.

The first two competitions are presented and published by to competing national wine publications (Wine Access and Vines Magazine) and are a study in contrasts. One competition’s hero (Tawse Winery in this year’s Canadian Wine Awards) is another’s 5th place finisher. Likewise, Intervin’s second place Cassini Cellars is eighth at the CWA. While the methodologies and scope of each competition might differ, the end result is still conflicting for the consumer. Who makes the best wine?

For me, that brings up the ultimate question: Why do we care? Could I show my face at a wine party by declaring my love for a 79 point wine? Do people rate books that way? How about music? Movies get rated low and people still flock to see them. Likewise, great rated movies can be completely ignored. Why do we clamour to the follow the points and awards for wine so closely? (Check out this video from one of my favourite wine blogs, who gave James Suckling 78 points for his website’s promo video.)

And who are all these wine experts anyway? Are they always right? Wine Spectator’s restaurant awards got punked recently by Robin Goldstein to demonstrate the fallibility of their reviewing process. Robert Parker, perhaps because of the scope of his influence, is subjected to almost microscopic analysis which, though entertaining at times, is not constructive for either his believers or detractors.

Some wineries love the attention that awards and competitions can get for them as they market their wines and build their brand, especially if their wines do well. And if they don’t, there isn’t really much of a backlash to speak of. Most bad reviews are never published and nobody ever mentions wines that don’t win awards. Township 7’s Chardonnay won the best white wine at an early CWA and was not even mentioned in the competition the next year (perhaps they didn’t enter any wines). They are still on the map and are now one of Naramata’s most consistent producers.  This year, Thornhaven in Summerland slipped from the top 10 to #19. Will anyone notice or care? Their Gewurz and Pinot Noir are still good sellers. I myself have seen wines that sit ignored on the store shelf for months only to disappear completely the day after it wins a medal at a festival or takes a high-profile award.

Bottom line (blatant rip-off from pop commercials): Image is nothing, thirst is everything, obey your thirst. Drink what you like and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All wine is good to somebody.