I recently judged at a few wine competitions. In late march, I blind tasted 17 samples of Saint-Joseph from 2014 vintage. I was placed with an oenologist and a vigneron. At the end of the session, we went through our tasting notes. Surprisingly, a bottle was scored inconsistently. The vigneron and I rated it 3 out of 5 while the oenologist rated 1. The oenologist explained that the wine did not show any significant winemaking technique. I have learned that academic or work background make wine professionals read a wine differently. The oenologist tends to rate a wine by looking at some remarkable or sophisticated winemaking techniques. We needed to pick our best wine. The vigneron and I agreed on a same sample that we thought best represents the appellation, while the oenologist thought that another sample was slightly better due to the distinguished work on oak aging.
At another competition, I was placed with a winemaker and two amateurs. This time it was me who was tough. My scoring seemed to be a bit harsh compared to the two amateurs. I justified my scoring by explaining them that I was looking at certain tasting characteristics of the appellation. The amateurs did not pay attention to flavors, aromas, structure, complexity or finish, as for me, I see as standards of quality. They were more likely to give high scores for well-balanced wines.
The latest competition I judged at was reserved exclusively for sommeliers. The experience was totally different. We rated the wines consistently. It was like we have a common ground when we discussed the merits of each wine.
These wine competition experience has taught me that wine tasting is subjective. There is no right or wrong. My expertise in wine assessment might be better than all amateurs. However, at the end of day, the only question we ask ourselves is; Do we want to drink that wine?
The great thing about participating in wine competitions is you get to evaluate yourself among other professionals and amateurs. I was able to have my own style of preference while still being able to rate and appreciate the quality of wines that I am not liking.