Mostly when we go looking for wine, whether it's in-store or online, we go for brands we know, right? But what happens when you can't see anything familiar? What other factors can you take into account to help you choose well?
How about… medals? No doubt you've seen bottles sporting these shiny accolades – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold & Trophy. But what do they mean, who awards them, and do they actually indicate good wine?
In Australia, we have a 20-point wine show judging system. The wines are tasted blind by industry experts, meaning they don't know anything about the wine itself except the category. The judges award points out of 3 for appearance, 7 for the nose and 10 for the palate. Scores are then added, and medals are awarded as follows:
Gold: 18.5 to 20 – an exceptional wine Silver: 17 to 18 – an extremely good wine Bronze: 15.5 to 16.5 – a good wine
In different parts of the world, and also a few parts of Australia, some wine critics use the 100-point system. Scoring for this system goes like this:
100 – 95 is equivalent to a Gold medal 94 – 90 is equivalent to a Silver medal 89 – 85 is equivalent to a Bronze medal
You'll probably be familiar with this system because it's the one that James Halliday uses (although his range goes down to 75). This 'American' rating system is becoming increasingly popular with Aussie winemakers, so you might see it more and more.
A Double Gold medal is a bit of a rarity, and not necessarily a guarantee at a wine show. A Double Gold is awarded when all the judges unanimously agree that a wine deserves a Gold medal.
A Trophy is the most prestigious award. Where many medals can be awarded throughout the year, only one of each Trophy is awarded each year, picked from among the Gold-winning wines of the show.
But, at the end of all this, there is one BIG thing to keep in mind – if a wine doesn't have a medal, it certainly doesn't mean it isn't good! Many, many wines, even from some of the best producers, may not be entered into shows at all.
So medals and points can definitely help you find a decent wine if you're stuck for inspiration! BUT they're not the be all and end all – mostly, what they indicate is that someone has tried this wine and they liked it enough to give it a decent score. At the end of the day, wine is super subjective, and what you like is probably going to be different from what your friend, neighbour or high school crush likes. And that's okay! The most important thing is that YOU know what you like, so you can continue enjoying your favourite tipples – or try branching out and making new discoveries!