What it’s like to judge at the Mondial des Pinots wine competition

Mondial des Pinots 2016

Imagine 1347 wine bottles from 24 countries.

This is the portfolio that 65 wine judges from 23 different countries were facing as they gathered in Sierre for the annual Mondial des Pinots. The Worldwide Pinot Competition is now in its 19th year, organized by the Association Vinea and is held in Sierre in the Valais.

19 years of pondering over Pinot

Valais, Switzerland’s largest and most diverse wine producing region, grows grapes in every nook and cranny and yet has the smallest registered vineyard in the world, with only three vines, belonging to the Dalai Lama.

The atmosphere at this year's Mondial des Pinots is alive and buzzing with a vibrant mix of languages, accents and aromas. The panel of wine judges from all over the globe are busy swirling, sniffing, sipping and scrutinizing hundreds of wines from the Pinot family of grape varieties.

 

Mondial des Pinots is the only worldwide competition exclusively devoted to wines made from the grapes of the Pinot family.

There is Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Rosé, Sparkling Pinot and Blanc de Noir from Brazil, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and, of course, Switzerland - to name just a few of the candidates.

Mondial des Pinots 2016

For three consecutive days, the judges taste the wine blindly (the identity of the wine is hidden). They follow strict rules and regulations so that each wine is judged fairly.

 

But what do we actually judge? The following three aspects are rated on a 100 point system:

  • Sight: Color, clarity and intensity.
  • Smell (the nose): Character, condition and intensity.
  • Taste (the palate): Taste and flavor.
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Having been on the tasting panel, I can assure you the tasting business is not taken lightly. Intense focus and concentration are required by the judges who taste up to 45 wines per day.

Mondial des Pinots 2016 - Jury List
 

How can the judges possibly tell the difference between each wine after tasting so many in a day? These are a few tricks of the trade. In order to remain focused and judge fairly, the judges:

  • Have to have the right tasting conditions. A quiet, odor free, well ventilated and well lit room. Perfume is absolutely forbidden. The right type of glassware, correct serving temperature, and white surfaces to clearly see the color of the wine are absolutely vital.
  • Never swallow the wine: Just imagine the results with 40 plus wines tasted each morning...
  • Have to neutralize the palate: Drink some water/eat some bread in between each wine, thoroughly rinse the palate to revive it for the next nectar.

Keep in mind that the majority of the wines entered in this competition are from Switzerland. In 2016, two great gold medals went to the canton of Valais: A Pinot Noir from Varone and a Pinot Gris from Salgesch/Salquenen were considered the most distinguished drops.

Switzerland’s pinot wines won more than two-thirds of the medals. Next came Germany with 15 medals, followed by France with seven. Here is a comprehensive list of all the winners.

 

And finally, some essential wine vocabulary:

  • Blanc de noir: Literally white from black, this stands for white wine made from red grapes.
  • Blind tasting: The process of sampling wine from bottles whose identity has been concealed.
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Mondial des Pinots 2016

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Nina Bobillier

Nina is a passionate wine journalist based in the heart of Lavaux. She shared her knowledge about the Swiss wine-scape, scenic vineyards and wines to taste.
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