Find out more details about how the wine show system works

There are around 70 wine shows held each year across Australia, with each having certain entry criteria. For example, wines must be made in a certain region or you need a certain volume of wine bottled or it may be an organic only wine show. There are at least 3 judges and up to 2 associates who taste, comment on and score the wines. The scores given by the associate don’t count towards the wines final score. The associate is there to learn and may help the judges when deliberating over a wine/s by offering another opinion.

The glasses of wine are numbered and lined up. Stewards pour the wines into the numbered glasses so that each judge has the same wine in the first glass, second glass, etc. The only information about the wine that the judge knows is variety and vintage.

There are a few ways to score wines but the most commonly used system is to score a wine out of 20. Then when all of the wines in the class are tasted the judges sit together and read out their scores and discuss the results. The scores are added up and medals awarded accordingly. As a guide, wines are awarded a maximum of 3 points for colour and clarity, 7 points for aroma and 10 points for taste. Ultimately wine show judges are looking for a clear wine with a bright colour. The aroma needs to be fresh and the taste fresh and also balanced. Higher scoring wines generally are complex, well balanced and have lingering flavours. When the scores from the 3 judges are added together, wines with a total score of

  • 55.5 or above are awarded gold medals
  • between 51 and 55.5 are awarded silver medals and
  • between 46.5 and 51 are awarded bronze medals.

Medals are usually awarded to up to 30% of wines in a class, where a class is a group of wines or wine styles. For example, a class could be Sauvignon Blanc or in a larger wine show one class could be specific vintage such as 2016 Sauvignon Blanc another class 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. A class may have 3 wines or it may have 150 wines which the judges taste and score.

When the scores are being reviewed by the judges after each class if there is a wine that two judges really like and one that doesn’t, then that wine is reviewed to ensure that nothing was missed and that it was scored fairly. Judges can change their scores upon a review.

Medals are only given based on quality. Medals don’t have to be awarded in each class. Classes may have multiple gold medal wines in them. Often when there are multiple golds, all of the gold medal wines in the class are tasted to establish which wine is the top gold.

While the wine show system may seem subjective, having well-experienced judges helps significantly to bring consistency to the system. Generally, if you enter the same wine in many shows you will have a similar score each time. For example you may be just out of the score range to receive a bronze medal in one show and just in it to receive a bronze in another show. Sometimes you see a wine with both bronze and silver medals. This most likely means that it received a score that was on the higher end of the bronze range in some shows and just got into the silver point range in other shows. So it was probably scoring around 50 points.  

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