International Wine and Spirit Competition

April 03 2013 by Micky Chan

Some wine lovers or experienced wine drinkers sometimes may think of getting into the wine industry, in wine sales or as wine buyers or as a wine educator like me.  But this year, I have added an interesting role, as an international wine judge, which has been confirmed from the  International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). This is a new and interesting page in my wine life.  Previously, I had some judging experience i n Hong Kong, however the IWSC is on a much bigger scale  requiring judges from all around the world to have detailed knowledge about customers’ tasting preferences, marketing trends and professional analysis.

The IWSC, which was founded in 1969 by a wine chemist, Anton Massel, is based in UK and was originally called Club Oenologique, but re-named as IWSC in 1978. The competition aimed at awarding and promoting best quality and excellence of the world’s best wines, spirits and liqueurs to customers and markets. The uniqueness of the competition is to judge the wine not only by organoleptic judgment, but also chemical analysis or technical control in a laboratory. Now, in its 44th year, IWSC receives entries from 90 wine producing countries, dealing with hundreds of wine professionals and judges, multi-national media partners and agents. It is also one of the most influential wine competitions in the world.

Due to th e number of  entries, judging takes place from  March to September to a sliding schedule, with wines from the Northern Hemisphere from February to May, then spirits and liqueurs, and Southern Hemisphere wines. My very first judging session, which was in Guildford near London, was in mid-March, which is mostly for French wines.  There were two panels every day led by one head judge.  Every morning, we tasted at least 55 blind samples, all we could see was numbers on a glass. Although we score each sample, there is often some discussions among the judges.

During these few days, it was just like sitting in a Master of Wine class. I learned a lot from my fellow judges but they also learned about my tasting preferences, which is referred to as  “the Asian palate”. This was really valuable experience and I would like to thank Peter Nixon, Antony Foster MW and Maggie McNie MV.

It was a long way to go for just a few days of tasting, but what can be better than tasting and discussing wines face-to-face with world-wide wine professionals.

IWSC website: