Uncorking B.C. wine winners

Posted on September 29, 2011

Great article about wine judging in the Okanagan by:

It doesn‘t matter that it‘s 10 a.m. on Wednesday and she won‘t be able to actually drink any of the wine.

“This is the world of wine judging,” she said with a laugh.
“It‘s sniff, swirl, taste and spit out.”
Vancouver-based Philip, Western Canada‘s only female Master of Wine, was in a conference room at Kelowna‘s Manteo Resort for a three-day marathon of wine judging to determine the winners of the B.C. Wine Awards that will be announced tonight.
“This is the gold medal round of judging (for white wines) – the one I most look forward to,” she said.
“By this point all the wines we taste are good. We‘re just deciding if it should get gold or silver or maybe even be named top white wine.”
But before Philip and her eight fellow judges made it to this point there were two days of sniffing, swirling, tasting and spitting a total of 455 wines.

Three panels of three judges each do the preliminary work of blindly judging different wines by varietal.
Blind tasting means the judges know the variety of the wine (pinot gris or merlot, for example) but nothing more because the wine is brought to them in a numbered glass.

Preliminary judging determines what wines get bronze medals and which wines don‘t merit a medal at all.
The best wines from the preliminary rounds go to the gold medal round where all nine judges taste to determine gold and silver medals and top wine.

“This is also when we get the most passionate discussion amongst the judges,” said Philip, who works as a portfolio manager for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch and runs a consulting business with her husband, Iain, that bears an amalgamation of their names – Barbariain Wine. “When you award a gold medal, it sends a message about it being true to style and quality. You want to make sure it truly deserves it.”

Judging a competition like this gives a snapshot of the B.C. wine industry, according to Philip.
“Every year, the quality is better and the consistency is there,” she said.

“That‘s the mark of a world-class wine region – consistently good quality. I‘m particularly amazed by the quality of the syrahs and rieslings coming out of B.C.”

The judging chairman was grape grower and consultant Rhys Pender from Cawston, who became Canada‘s youngest Master of Wine in 2009.
Since there are only four Masters of Wine in Canada, it meant half of them (Pender and Philip) were in the same conference in Kelowna this week.

Other judges included Master of Wine D.C. Flynt from Louisiana, 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival sommelier of the year Kurtis Kolt, Jim Martin from Kelowna‘s Metro Liquor, Washington state-based Eric Degerman of Wine Press Northwest magazine, Vancouver-based wine writer and broadcaster Jurgen Gothe and Vancouver-based wine educator and chef D.J. Kearney.

The B.C. Wine Awards, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight at Kelowna‘s Rotary Centre for the Arts, gives people a chance to hear who wins first and then taste the best wines accompanied by tapas and canapes.

The awards kick off the 31st annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, the Valley‘s largest annual party with 120 events throughout the Okanagan.
Last year, the fest attracted 40,000 people to events and wineries. They spent $4.7 million directly on wine and tickets, and more when accommodation, transportation and other shopping is added in.

Since those 40,000 usually visit multiple wineries or take in several events, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society estimates 180,000 consumer visits.

“We‘ve grown the fall fest about as big as we can,” said society co-ordinator Blair Baldwin.

“And given the challenging economic times, we‘ll be pleased if this year‘s spending and visits holds its own compared to last year.”

For a full list of the tastings, wine and food pairing dinners, lunches, grape stomps, seminars and other events of the fest, check out

www.TheWineFestivals.com or pick up a guide at participating wineries, restaurants, hotels and tourist information centres.


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