Andre Boada | Judge & Sommelier | 10/5/20 – 10/7/20
We have all seen accolades posted on websites or even grocery/retail shelf talkers outlining a “Double Gold” International wine medal winner but how is that mark defined? In a quest to share insights I decided to parley my skillset by participating as judge in one of the top 10 wine competitions held within the US, San Antonio Rodeo & Livestock International Wine 2020 Competition. A three-day expose’ with two days of preliminary judging and one day for final champion awards.
It all begins by being selected as a judge. In my case, it occurred by happenstance. as I was involved by entering wines for Augusta Vin Estate Winery, based in Fredericksburg, TX. During the process I inquired about being a judge & sent in my credentials. Luckily for me I have a long history in the wine industry that includes judging in SF International mixed with a Court of Master Sommelier “Advanced” certification. Quite honestly, you never know if you’ll make the cut since all judges are highly qualified. Shortly after, I was selected as one of 50 judges with over 1000 wines entered within the competition.
As you might imagine COVID conditions played into judging protocol and precheck involved a health screening questionnaire followed by temperature check and mandatory wearing a mask unless tasting wines. Upon arrival you get a name badge followed by a mystery/lottery table assignment. That way no one can predetermine tasting flights selected for your group. Each group of judges, all (5) five w/one captain who tallies the score. The group is individually spaced 6 feet apart and given tight instructions on scoring. Points are assigned for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish.
All wines are tasted blind and your score is solely determined by what you decide.
Following the completion of each flight some judge discussion takes place based on favorites and/or if wine might need a second consideration to raise/lower score.
Judging began promptly at 10 AM and other than a quick 30 minute lunch, it was a fast and furious dance on your taste buds all through till 5 PM.
The highlights of the day: Sangiovesse – Texas $17-$39, amazing quality across the board. The other, Red Blends, Texas – French Blends and noticed mostly Rhone varietals as a focus. Lastly, the best flight, Cabernet Sauvignon $26-$30 – all were exceptional.
The flight lineup, 12 in all for the day, consists of 7 pre-lunch and 5 post lunch. Each flight offers a grape or blend category and price point showcasing 6-8 wines. That said, you evaluate around 90 wines per day, sometime trying each wine 2-3 times. This in itself is challenging on the palette so taste then spit is needed. Also the rodeo provided ample ways for you to help your taste buds bounce back after each flight.
Mainly a repeat of day one but with different wines and a new group of judges. There were just a few returning judges that included myself. At my table today, a savvy group including Will Bliss, senior wine buyer HEB, Jerkel Van Bibber, senior manager RDC, Jennifer Beckmann, GM/sommelier Slate Mill Winery and Lorelei Helmke, Press/sommelier. If you ever watched the movie “Somm” then you would appreciate this: Most unusual sommelier descriptors of the day, (1) this sangiovese smells like hot dog water and (2) color descriptor, Mega-purple.
What I really noticed today, a continuation of the seamless execution from all the volunteers. The sheer rotation of wines every 30 minutes was amazing. Each group of 5 judges had 5 volunteers making sure everything was on point. Really enjoyed meeting the dream team behind the scenes and honestly felt they enjoyed watching us judge.
Added notes on the point system per wine, per judge
Appearance 0-1 points
Aroma 1-5 points
Body 1-7 points
Taste 1-7 points
Finish 1-5 points
Five judges per group so a 100 point scale was used
92-100 points Double Gold
If we noticed a flaw, for example a corked wine, then the wine would be replaced with a fresh bottle before judging. This occurred 3 times in two days.
In closing, I can’t thank the entire San Antonio Rodeo team enough for all the kindness they showed during the judging. Not only did they prefect the art of judging they made us feel safe, well respected and made me a sincere fan for all their efforts. Kudos to all for a job well done at every level and all the new friends that came into my circle of life.
Be sure to follow VinoCadre on social media for daily insights and antics as I explore the world of food & wine. I also plan to post final results from the competition once completed.