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Wine and Prizes - The trend for more competitions

Wine and the Market

You may have noticed it. More and more wines have little badges slapped onto the labels saying things like 'Gold Medal Award'. Look closely at the fine print and you'll see that the wine won third prize at the Southern Victoria Farmers' Co-Operative Annual show. So what does it mean?

You may have noticed it. More and more wines have little badges slapped onto the labels saying things like 'Gold Medal Award'. Look closely at the fine print and you'll see that the wine won third prize at the Southern Victoria Farmers' Co-Operative Annual show. So what does it mean? Think here of the dodo in Alice in Wonderland who organises the Caucus race. When the pointless race is over the dodo announces that everybody gets a prize. Best year-old red made from Syrah, best year-old red made from Cabernet, most characterful red wine, and so on. The list of categories ensures no one leaves the show empty handed, rather like dog shows where there are prizes for the longest tail, the best trick, the wettest nose or the hairiest ears.

As there are more and more shows for producers to enter their wines in, there are new strategies being developed to make a wine stand out from the crowd. If it's a New World red for example, it may be made to stand out from the rest by being more intensely coloured, higher in alcohol and with a robust body heightened by oaking. The buzz word here is 'extraction', the technology that allows the wine-maker to extract the most possible from the grapes, more alcohol and more body. Once upon a time the great Australian shiraz, Penfold's Grange, was almost unique in it's inky intensity. Today it can seem quite restrained and almost austere comared to some of the monsters out there, almost black they're so dark, with alcohol reaching as high as 16.5%. Even that most conservative of regions, the Bordeaux, now has its own treacly examples.

If you want your white wine to stand out from the crowd you need a different tack, and many wine-makers have gone down the fruit road. For the past few decades white wine has been following the fruit trail, beginning in the New World. The wine drinkers of the world took to this new style very happily and in great numbers, so much so that Old World producers had to start to revamp their wines to keep up with changing market tastes. It follows that when everybody is going down this road, then to stand out, to be egregious, you have to have even more fruit than anyone else. This is what accounts for those white wines that almost taste like a fruit cordial, wines that have taken the search for fruit to its ultimate extreme.

If there's a moral here at all, it has to be treat those little 'Gold Medal' stickers with just a pinch of salt.

Recommended wine

Santa Julia Tempranillo/Malbec

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