Sniff. Sip. Swirl. Spit.
It must be the 2003 L.A. County Fair wine competition.
With expectations of its biggest competition yet, Wines of the World will celebrate its 64th anniversary May 14-16 with an array of international judges tasting and testing the globe’s finest vintages and an organic wine fest that will spotlight wines made from organically grown grapes.
Fondly referred to as the “granddaddy” of wine competitions, this year’s event is expected to surpass all others. In 2002, entries totaling nearly 3,400 from more than 600 wineries competed. Entries this year are expected to increase. Judges from England, France, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, Italy and New Zealand will be participating.
“We have an exceptional panel of judges coming. This is definitely going to be an exciting year,” said Dr. Robert W. Small, chairman of the wine competition and a professor in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Cal Poly Pomona.
In conjunction with the wine event, the Olive Oils of the World competition will also be held May 14-16. The goal of the wine competition is to develop the use of the results as a marketing tool for the wine industry and as a barometer by which the consumer can benefit, perhaps by gaining insight and knowledge of the level of wines at their fingertips, said Small. The wine competition, as well as the Olive Oils of the World competition, will be held at the Millard Sheets Gallery at Fairplex.
Wines will be judged in more than 300 classes, including the limited production wine competition. This category recognizes wines produced in smaller quantities and is open to all wines in selected classes with production levels of less than 2,500 cases. New this year is the competition’s partnering with EcoWineFest for a special category for wines made from organically grown grapes. Small anticipates 500 entries in this category alone, with many international entries.
All wines and extra virgin olive oils will be automatically entered into a packaging design competition that will award medals for the best labels and bottles.
Beginning shortly after the end of prohibition, the L.A. County Fair began awarding medals to the finest wines in California. The event quickly grew to world-class stature, and, in 1991, judging included not only entries representing the California wine industry but wines from throughout the Americas. Then in 2002, the competition was open to wines from throughout the world.
The Los Angeles County Fair Association places a strong emphasis on educating the public about wine. In 1968, the Fair introduced public wine tasting, and in 1998 established a wine education center, called The Vineyard, where the public can participate in wine education classes, enjoy gold medal wine tasting, and a display of award-winning wines.
This year gold medal-winning wines and olive oils will be available for the public to test their tastes against those of the judges at the 81st L.A. County Fair, Sept. 12-28.
Fairplex Cellar Master Mary Ellen Cole and staff ably accomplish the mammoth job of receiving, unpacking, inspecting, sorting, coding and storing some 4,000 wines.
The judging process takes three full days. The judges smell, sniff, swish and spit, grading each wine on numerous qualities. In all of the tasting competitions, each judge samples the wines and makes selections independently. After all wines in a group have been tasted, the judges work together to narrow the field and confer awards. An additional Best of Class award may be conferred to gold medal winning wines provided that at least 75 % of the panel members agree and have tasted all the wines of that respective class.
A Best Varietal Award for selected varietals and blends may be named from all of the Best of Class winners. The entire group of judges will determine division sweepstakes awards and the Best Wine of the Competition Award, the h