Last week at the N.C. State University Club in Raleigh, judging took place for the 2014 N.C. State Fair wine competition. This year saw large participation with 47 of the state’s wineries and 29 amateur wine makers submitting entries. The Deep Fried Crew got a chance to go behind the scenes of this closed-door competition to see what the panel of expert judges look for when judging wines.
Setting up for the wine competition involves putting wines in flights based on their category. Wines are grouped together by class, either commercial or amateur, and by category. Categories include white, red, fruit, rose, fortified or dessert wine, sparkling, or hybrids. For each wine submitted, commercial wineries must submit three bottles for judging; amateurs submit one bottle. “Commercial wineries submit three so that two can be available for tasting, in case more is needed to judge in the chance the wine wins the top of its category,” said Whit Winslow, NCDA&CS wine marketing specialist and competition coordinator. “That leaves one bottle for display purposes at the fair.”
After the wines are sorted into categories in a closed-off section, the first flight is brought out to the judges and the blind judging begins with three panels of professional judges. Each flight includes five to eight different wines. Each wine is identified by a number, not by the winery or wine name. A wine can earn 20 possible points. The judges score each wine on appearance (3 possible points), aroma (6 possible points), taste (6 possible points), aftertaste (3 possible points) and overall impression (2 possible points). A wine earning 18 to 20 points with a judge is deemed extraordinary, 15 to 17 points is excellent, 12 to 14 points earns good, 9 to 11 is commercially acceptable, 6 to 8 is deficient, and wines earning five points are less are deemed poor and objectionable.
Evaluating all the wines takes about two full days and about 3,500 total glasses of wine poured for tasting. After all the wines are judged, the top of each category moves on to compete for the N.C. Winegrowers Cup (Overall Best of Show) and the N.C. Muscadine Cup (Best of Muscadine). At this point, all three panels of judges evaluate and score the winning wines again. The wine that gets the highest score wins. After the score sheets were turned in, the judges were allowed behind the curtain to see all of the wine bottles and to see which wines won. Many judges then tracked down some of their personal top scores or favorites to see which wineries they chose.
North Carolina is home to more than 140 wineries and 400 commercial grape growers. Find this year’s wine competition winners, as well as the wineries who won the coveted N.C. Winegrowers Cup and N.C. Muscadine Cup in the Education Building during the fair.
The N.C. Wine and Grape Council will announce the winners Monday, Oct. 13, on television station WNCN’s “My Carolina Today.”