Wine competition: is it worth it? – Wine industry advisor
Winegrowers weigh the pros, cons and relevance of wine competitions on the modern market.
A tasting room lined with award-winning bottles, sparkling with bronze, silver and gold is nothing new. But is the time, energy and money required to participate in these competitions still worth it? Are these rewards still as serious as in the past?
Not for all styles of wines or paperbacks
Jim Law, winemaker at Virginia’s Linden Vineyards, no longer presents his wines in competitions. His wines “evolve over time in the glass,” he says, and this is what attracts attention for his specific wine style – terroir-driven, mineral and concentrated, often requiring years to age, or at the very least, hours to open once you’ve burst. the cork.
“In a competition, judges don’t spend a lot of time with a wine,” he says. “They judge by their first impression.”
While her wines have won praise from Jancis Robinson who praises Law as “a key figure in raising the standards of viticulture in Virginia”, in competitions, Linden’s wines consistently win a meager silver medal.
For others, a concern about the unfolding of a specific competition prevents them from participating. John Cifelli, general manager of Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, NJ, says a lack of transparency prevents him from participating in the New Jersey Governor’s Cup judged by the Beverage Tasting Institute (BTI).
“I think BTI’s scores are inflated compared to other reviews, and they seem to go out of their way to create esoteric and weird taste descriptors that can look like a flaw in a wine that ends in a score of. 90+, “he says. , citing the descriptor “soy glazed nuts” used in the past by the BTI for a Chardonnay. But Cifelli thinks that these competitions could be a good return on investment if it helps with marketing.
A measuring stick among peers
2020 New Jersey Governor’s Cup winner Autumn Lake Winery (for their 2019 Petit Verdot estate) saw this marketing ROI. The estate has only been open for five years and this is the second time that it has done well in the competition. (Previously, the Autumn Lake Traminette was tied for Best White Hybrid.)
For owner and winemaker Mark Hernandez, winning this year’s top prize was an honor and an indication of how the young vineyard fares compared to established and rented wineries nearby, such as the Amalthea Winery in Atco which has been around for ever since. the early 1980s and received the highest honor in 2018 and 2019 or William Heritage Winery at Mullica Hill, where a 6th generation family farm produces wines that receive accolades from nationally recognized judges.
“To me that’s a metric – how I stack up against these other guys just to see where I’m in the band,” Hernandez says, “We’re going to have a mug to display in the tasting room, but this is not why I do it. I just want to see where we fall.
Marketing opportunities and increased sales
When Port of Leonardtown Winery’s 2019 Chambourcin Preserve won the 2021 Maryland Governor’s Cup – the second time the vineyard has won the honor – the state’s Wineries Association sent a statement to more than 300 publications, a marketing campaign that the vineyard did not have to launch.
Winemaker Lauren Zimmerman says the exhibit is invaluable. Journalists write stories that people read, and victory resonates with wine drinkers.
“Once you earn that honor, people put you in the high quality category,” she says. “Online sales have definitely increased from people outside of the local area. »Just like the visits to the tasting room. And regular customers also started to buy more. This victory increased the reputation of Leondartown’s Port as a whole, and not just the award-winning wine.
For Philadelphia-based Scott Zoccolillo, wine director at Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, statewide competitions often direct him to bottles from outside the major wine regions he may wish to include. on the wine list of his restaurant.
“The competition prizes, just like the scores, give the customer a quality foundation. I could sit and talk all day about the qualities of the grape or the taste profile, but sometimes having a 95 pointer or Best in State, whatever the price, gives… credibility to the wine and what we say.
“What comes with the price is a good amount of targeted and free advertising,” said Carl DiManno, president and winemaker of 868 Estate Vineyards in Virginia. His 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito won the Virginia Governor’s Cup 2020.
“Free” advertising is not really free. There is almost always a cost to participate in wine competitions. Several bottles of each entered wine – which might otherwise be sold – must be sent to the competition at the cellar’s expense. There is also an entrance fee. DiManno estimates at $ 75 for each grape variety in the 2020 contest. He incorporates the cost into his advertising and promotional budget.
Unfortunately, DiManno couldn’t see the full return on his investment. The 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup results came out about 10 days before the lockdown. Winning made the name of the winery known, and the winning wine sold out before 868 could reopen. But it’s impossible to know what opportunities the winery lost when people couldn’t visit.
Robin Shreeves is a beverage journalist and lifestyle feature writer. His writings on wine have appeared in dozens of print and online publications including Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Courier Post, Spirited magazine, Edible Philly, Edible Jersey, USA Today and Drink Philly. She holds a Level 3 wine certification and an Advanced Wine Speaker certification from the National Wine School. Robin is also the co-founder of Thinking Outside the Bottle which offers content writing for beverage brands.