Comments on Importance of Wine Competitions

Here's the opinion of California wine journalist Dan Berger, who organizes several wine competitions and judges in many more; this is from the latest edition of his Vintage Experiences newsletter (

"Wineries that regularly enter wine competitions probably do so because they have seen the benefit of using medals won as a marketing tool.

The reasons are obvious.  First of all, I view wine competition results as a lot more valid than the 'see the label, know the price, rank the wine' concept employed by most critics who score wines by number.

Wine competitions use blind evaluation, which makes the entire idea more competitive.  Moreover, instead of a judge ranking a wine in a vacuum, the medals typically are achieved by both discussion with other judges and by comparing various wines of a similar type, none of which is known to any of the panelists.

But there is an additional benefit that accrues to wineries as a result of entering wine competitions: getting their wines in front of gatekeepers.

Simply getting an appointment with the wine buyer for a major retail chain, upscale restaurant, or high-end wine shop is a near impossibility thse days.  Such people are typically so busy that many have unlisted phone numbers and do not take appointments to try new wines.

I was a judge at the recent Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge.  Also judging was the wine buyer for one restaurant chain that has more than 200 restaurants.  She said competitions can be a good way of trying 100 or more wines without knowing the price or label--which she said was a valid way to purchase wine.  That is, 'If quality is your goal, not just a label with an image.'

I discover more interesting wines at competitions than I do anywhere else.

In short, it's clear: If you don't enter, you can't win."



The wine competitions are managed by professionals, judged by professionals, with both groups operating from the viewpoint to reward good work from the winemaker. The wines are presented in their best light, and judged in surroundings conducive to objective analysis. The support teams are the best in the business." - Tim McNally, Host, The Wine and Spirits Show, 1350 AM, New Orleans and heard in South Louisiana and Southern Mississippi on

“Wine Competitions are a great way to understand where your wines fall with a broad panel of judges and it can validate or contradict what you believe about the quality of a particular wine you produce.  It can really be used to help ensure that you don’t become complacent or develop too much of a ‘house pallet’.  Especially when entering multiple competitions throughout the year, you really get a sense of how a wine is being received by a pretty large group of qualified tasters.  I think consumers also value competition awards.  The market place is so saturated that they sometimes appreciate some guidance; when they see a wine has received a gold medal or best of class, it can help some consumers to have confidence in their purchase.” – Dennis Martin, VP Director of Winemaking, Fetzer Vineyards

“I have been involved in V&WM wine competitions for many years. As a winemaker I entered a large number of my wines and realized the huge value in winning awards, especially gold. Our credibility and sales were enhanced at retail and with our wholesalers. As a winemaker I looked forward to the results from each competition as it gave me an unbiased second opinion with respect to quality from my peers.  Most recently I have participated as a judge and now get to see first hand how the competition is run. I am most impressed. The quality of judges is always high. The judging conditions are the best there is. I love the fact that many of the judging panels are made up of winemakers, media and trade, so if a wine wins an award you know it has been evaluated from all perspectives. I am a strong believer in wine competitions.” – Daryl Groom, Owner/Winemaker, Groom Wines

“The competition was wonderful…. I’ve been judging for almost a decade and have come to realize it is the dynamic panel that makes the day produce medals.” -William S. Bloxsom-Carter, Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Director, Playboy

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to judge.  It was a great experience and I appreciate the chance to taste alongside such talented people in the business.  I realize that to participate in such competitions is a special opportunity and one that I learn greatly from.”  -Jamie Arevalo, Product Development, E. & J. Gallo Winery