Value by any other measure wouldn’t be half as good!
by Anthony Gismondi
WineAlign is proud to announce the results of the inaugural World Wine Awards of Canada (the Worlds). But we’ve got a problem. We have the best list of value wines in the country, but the ‘value’ word is so over used it is almost meaningless in the modern retail world.
That is unless you consider who is saying it and why.
In another life the majority of the WineAlign team joined me at Wine Access magazine to look for the best value wines under $25 in the country and the annual issue was a big hit with readers. Upon the demise of Wine Access we wanted to make sure the awards moved forward and without missing a beat, or really any of judges, the WineAlign World Wine Awards were launched in Toronto late this summer.
There have been a few changes. We expanded to include wines up to $50 hoping to get a look at some of the key wines you see in restaurants and that might be candidates for the cellar. A $50 dollar limit may seem high to some of you, unless you live in BC, but in the end we think it has added a bit of extra gloss to the results.
To be clear, I want to share our methodology of tasting, since it has become fashionable to bash the results of wine awards and label them as cash grabs so let’s start with the cash.
Our entry fees covered the costs of flying most of our judges in from across Canada, putting them up in a hotel room for a week, paying them to work for the week and feeding them too. It also paid the enormous fees required to rent three ballrooms in a Toronto hotel for eight days, storing wines for weeks, shipping it to and fro and well, I could go on.
Then there is the work to prepare hundreds of flights of wine, keep track of all the entries and results and well suffice to say if there was any profit, and I haven’t heard yet that there is, it wouldn’t begin to cover the true cost of getting all results you are about to read.
As for the methodology:
The wines were grouped in flights by price and variety and or style and the results were sliced and diced on the strength of numbers. All the large categories were tasted by price: Under $15, $15 to $25; and $25 to $50. The largest categories yielded Category Champions and Judges’ Choice selections regardless of price, in effect the best of the best. We also declared the best wine from each price category.
Categories with smaller entry numbers were considered for Judges’ Choice and best of price categories where it made sense. Each of the wines recognized were judged at least twice if not three times by a minimum eight judges and often by as many as twelve or sixteen.
We have also put together some top value wines by country and perhaps the most valuable list of all the very best under $15.
The wines were tasted using our regular 100 point system and no wine that was given an award scored lower than 87 points in fact most were at 88 points and above. I mention that because you won’t see any points on the lists you open but rather just the names of the winners. NOTE that every wine is ranked by score to two decimal points so while we believe they all represent great value they are placed on the list in order of merit and the first ranked wine scored the highest.
The strength of WineAlign is that you will be able to look up each wine on-line and see what our critics think about it individually. The wine’s collective accomplishments will appear in the form of a WWAC medallion beside its regular wine note and scores out of 100. It doesn’t get any more transparent than that.
Let’s face it. When you put 19 highly opinionated and widely experienced judges in the same room as 1000 wines selling for less than $50 you have the potential to come up with amazing results that speak to value. You could say it is arbitrary, or subject to individual will or judgment without restriction. It could be contingent solely upon one’s discretion, but you know what, it isn’t. After a week of scrutiny, tasting under similar conditions you can see the best wines working their way to the top.
We know we are onto something because a lot of people are trying to copy, or let’s be polite, emulate or search for value but they won’t come close thanks to a national peculiarity.
Here in Canada all but one provincial government operates a liquor monopoly. If they have any redeeming value, it is that there has to be an illusion of fairness when it comes to listing wines from around the world so a lot of wines, from a lot of countries, are listed; especially below $50. It’s a national phenomenon that doesn’t occur in many other countries.
Co-head Judge, World Wine Awards of Canada
Principle Critic and Partner, WineAlign