The Wine and Spirits Asia trade show staged its biggest ever wine competition in Singapore recently – Wine Challenge 2010.

As an observer with over 80 show judgings under the belt it is interesting to follow how our northern colleagues are taking ownership of wine judgings.

And I can report that WSA was once a twee kind of wine show – I was in attendance on the first year and requested to participate as a judge.

That request was declined with a deafening silence. It was a matter of who you knew not what you know.

As with the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition last year, the majority of judges were Asian participants – a thoroughly presentable idea now.

The last position however on the team is the chief judge; a person with an enormous responsibility as overall results reflect on the leadership taken.

Both competitions have relied on non-Asian chief judges with high international respect, and far more experience than local judges at present.

In Singapore, US-born, German-domiciled Joel Payne presided, and in Hong Kong, Australian and Moet and Chandon roving expert Dr Tony Jordan were the top officials.

I guess the next transition is to mentor some leading Asian palates towards undertaking formal wine judging studies to build greater self-belief. It’s a matter of recognising a trophy-winning wine as opposed to a plain bronze medal on the tasting bench.

It’s also a bit more about understanding both statistics and the process of finalising the top results so that justice is seen to be done. It avoids the strange results like Singapore.

One recommended event is the Australian Wine Research Institute‘s bi-annual Advanced Wine Assessment Short Course – an independent training ground for Australian wineries and budding wine judges. Expressions of interest close June 7 for the 20 plus places.

The other event which is more international and classics-focussed is the Len Evans tutorial held annually in the Hunter Valley – immortalising the talent and high support ethic of the late Len Evans towards mentoring the younger generations into the role of future chief judges. Applications close August 7. The tutorial runs for five days and accepts 12 scholars annually.

An example of the talent outputs of the Len Evans Tutorial is Yarra Valley Gen Y winemaker Tom Carson, now chief judge of Canberra Wine Show this past two years.

The challenge is out there for our Asian friends. This next level of wine standards and the experience required might avoid less credible results.

I am referring to the Singapore best wine trophy going to a NZ Sauvignon Blanc (debatably a second rate variety) over the more internationally-respected varieties (Champagne blend), Cabernet and Merlot, and Shiraz.

So a Sauvignon outpointed a Bordeaux in a consumer environment more hell-bent on drinking red wine than herbal-green unwooded white. Or is this telling marketers something about east Asian future trends? I suggest not.

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