For the states not on the west coast a wine competition medal can move bottles of wine out the door. But it’s a little different story for the big boys out west.

I’ve written in recent days about River City Winery’s incredible win for best overall wine at the Indy Wine Competition – the first ever for an Indiana or Midwest winery. That’s going to help Gary Humphrey sell wine. He knows it too. He jumped the price the minute he got back to New Albany.
While that may seem like capitalizing to some consumers, so what? You believe the great California or Oregon wine producers don’t bump their prices or the next vintage if they get 95 points from a publication like Wine Spectator? Sure they do!

Dan Crank, Willamette Valley winemaker

I’ve guest judged at the Indy Wine Competition several times and again this year. One of the judges on my panel was Willamette Valley Vineyards winemaker Dan Shank. Dan was funny, extremely knowledgable and anxiouis to share his insights and opinions. Just my kind of guy!

He had some great insights in how professional judge such competitons.

“The first thing is to figure out if there are any flaws in the wine,” he explained. “There are some pretty obvious things that can happen  to wine . Winemakers can go down the wrong path and those wines are flawed. So we’re going to dock those wines. Then we want to reward things that are very varietal specific,;if you capture the essence of a varietal then we want to reward you and give you a gold medal.

“It’s not whether you like the varietal or not. We had rhubarb wines and maybe you don’t like rhubarb, but it tasted like rhubarb. They did their jobs so you want to reward that.”

And while Dan enjoys judging these competitions, he admits the medals are more important in some areas of the country than others.

“That’s true, there’s a lot more competition and a lot more people have been doing the same varietal for a long time on the coast.  So the magazines and periodicals become a little more important to sell our wines. That’s a whole different game because those guys when they rate wine they don’t taste them blind so there’s a lot more to that dance. There is marketing and presence in the industry to consider.

Here in the Midwest a ribbon from a prestigious competition like the Indy Wine Competition can really help you out and help drive sales. But for me to take a ribbon home to Oregon from the Indy Wine competition, it’s not as big a selling point. We’re looking for the affirmation of the periodicals.”
But Dan confirms what I’ve heard for years – medals mean sales. Jim  Butler, at Butler Winery near Bloomington, told me that after he won best varietal for his Rose a couple of years ago, that it was gone in a hurry. And that included three price hikes!

Medals mean sales and affirmation of a good product. Don’t overlook awards when you visit a winery but don’t take them as a guarantee either.

 Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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