What Wine Competition is Right For Your Winery
Each year there are over 100 wine competitions taking place throughout the United States alone. From large competitions with thousands of entries to narrowly focused local competitions with dozens of wines, wine competitions run the gamut of size, eligibility, and focus. Choosing the correct competition for your winery can be overwhelming. While it’s tempting to enter as many competitions as possible, tools like Wine Judges Corner are essential to find competitions that make the most sense for your winery and goals.
In general, competitions fall into three categories: international competitions open to wines from around the world; regional competitions restricted to specific geographical areas; and specialty competitions that focus on specific types or varietals.
Best for: Wineries with national or international distribution, competing against the best of the best, maximizing medal returns
International competitions are some of the largest and most prestigious wine events, attracting thousands of wines from around the world to be judged by panels of well-known wine judges. For example, the San Francisco International Wine Competition evaluated 4,902 wines in 2015 – it’s largest entry pool ever. Wines are typically organized into categories by varietal/type and price point, with less emphasis placed on regionality. This makes these competitions truly international, with wines from around the world competing head-to-head.
With so many entries, it makes sense to identify your goals and use Wine Judges Corner to find competitions that match your needs. Interested in establishing or expanding your distribution? The New York International Wine Competition is judged exclusively by retailers, distributors, sommeliers and importers who may choose to carry your wine. Want to maximize your chances of winning a medal? The Los Angeles International Wine Competition awarded 2,724 medals to a pool of just over 3,000 wines in 2015.
Best for: Wineries with sales in a specific region, wineries in developing wine regions, judging with emphasis on regional character
Regional competitions offer a huge opportunity for wineries to build or solidify their reputations within a particular geographic area. A win at a well-known regional competition allows wineries to set themselves apart from competitors and provides a great marketing opportunity to bring in new customers. In addition, many regional wine competitions are presented in conjunction with county or state fairs with the winners being displayed and promoted to fair guests.
In contrast with international competitions, regional competitions generally have stricter entry requirements and a resulting smaller entry pool. Regional competitions may be limited to wines produced in a given county, state, AVA, or multi-state region. Others, like the El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition, are open to all wines but offer special categories and awards for wines produced in the region.
In general, these competitions place more emphasis on regional identity and terroir, with wine judges familiar with the region’s unique characteristics. For example, the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition goes so far as to organize entries into eleven different California growing regions to better reflect the diversity of Californian wines.
Best for: Wineries with a narrow focus on varietal or type, flagship wines, focused international competition
For wineries that focus on particular varietals or styles, specialty competitions provide the opportunity to have wines evaluated by wine judges with deep knowledge of the particular wine style. They also offer a good compromise between the large entry pools of international competitions and the geographical restrictions of regional competitions. For example, the Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Competition is open to all commercially produced rosé wines, judged by a panel of wine judges specifically selected for their passion for rosé.
Oftentimes, specialty competitions are structured as “competitions within competitions.” For example, the Sauvignon Summit and Zin Challenge (open to all U.S. produced Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandels) is presented as part of the Alameda County Fair Commercial Wine Competition. The Ontario Wine Awards also include a separate icewine competition, while the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition presents a special award for Top Riesling. Resources like Wine Judges Corner can help identify these special awards.
With so many competitions to choose from, wineries need to be selective in order to choose the competitions that meet their goals and maximize their return on investment. Wine Judges Corner, with its database of wine competitions and results, is a valuable tool to help you narrow down your options and find the competitions that are right for you. With Wine Judges Corner, you can:
- Find competitions limited to your region
- Learn about the judges for each competition and their qualifications
- View past results and awards
With this information, you’ll be ready to make the best choices for your winery and enter the competitions that give you the best chance of success. Good luck!
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About Travis Green
Travis Green is owner/winemaker at Hightower Creek Vineyards in Hiawassee, GA. Travis fell in love with wine while backpacking around Europe as a college student and has indulged his passion at every opportunity since. After working in higher education, non-profits and software development, Travis moved back to his family farm and planted a small 10 acre vineyard. When not planting, pruning or picking, Travis writes, works with his beehives, and travels as much as possible.