A record number of entries into this year’s B.C. Wine Awards means every table and inch of floor space in the ‘working’ room at Manteo Resort was filled with cases of wine waiting to be poured for judging this week.
But director of judging Marjorie King says, despite the physical effort required to organize the larger event, she is delighted with the success of the awards.
“It’s a sign of how much it’s valued,” she explains.
However, she was quick to point that the whole exercise of hosting nine judges from around North America, preparing more than 500 wines for organized judging in appropriate categories; pulling corks and pouring tastes, and all the ensuing paperwork involved, would not be possible without a group of over-qualified volunteer/friends. Many of them are people she used to work with at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre at Summerland, before her retirement.
This year’s wine judging took four days, including Wednesday’s re-testing for gold medals.
She notes she has been impressed by the judges’ respectful treatment of the wines and she says it appears that no one judge is dominating the conversation about the tastings.
“It’s a good balance,” she concludes.
This year’s judges are: Eric Degerman, managing editor of Wine Press Northwest in Washington State; Simon Gaudreault, a sommelier and wine advisor from Quebec; Kurtis Kolt, a Vancouver-based wine consultant and writer; Jim Martin of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna; Tim Pawsey, Vancouver wine writer; Treve Ring, a B.C. sommelier and wine consultant; Brad Royale, wine director for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts; Stephen Schiedel, a portfolio manager for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch; and Stephen Wong, a Vancouver food and beverage consultant and journalist.
As he swirled, sniffed, sipped and spat, Kolt explained a wine varietal should taste like that varietal, but more than that, judges are looking for a good balance of acidity, sugar, alcohol and tannins.
“If the winemaker adds a lot of oak, there should be enough fruit flavours to stand up to it,” he explains.
Degerman adds, “Consumers look for those characteristics.”
There are regional differences in how different varietals ripen and then in how the winemakers handle them, but overall, he believes global climate change has benefited the reds in the Okanagan.
He’s a particular fan of gewurztraminers from the Okanagan, which are more fruit-forward than those from the Western U.S.
Judges become particularly aware of the challenges created by weather some years, despite the magic wrought by winemakers with the cards they’re dealt, he noted.
This year, with its long summer and sunny entry into fall, will not be one of those particularly-challenging years.