Can we rely on Gold, Silver, Bronze Medal Badges on Wine Bottles?
2nd September 2022
Have you ever noticed and more so ever been tempted by, a medal badge on a bottle of wine? From highly commended to gold and trophy level, many bottles globally will contain one or more on the label or as a separate addition and usually at a prominent visual point on the bottle. Are wine badges really worth what they are cracked up to be?
Surely a gold medal winning wine is going to taste amazing right? Maybe such bottles are slightly more expensive than others and if one is spotted in the bargain section then it is likely to be already sold out – I mean, who can refuse a budget gold standard bottle of plonk!
Let’s delve into wine awards, which is why bottles have these medal badges and see how they work, why they are popular and what key benefits they offer both the seller and the buyer.
Wine Awards: Across the globe, each and every year, a host of wine awards take place whose main aim is to judge and score wines. Sometimes these wine awards can be quite specific such as for a certain wine region or grape only, maybe they are Champagne and Sparkling Wine Awards or those which adhere to sustainable production methods only.
“Wine is a very personal thing when it comes to what is good or bad. We must remember that we all like certain styles of wines, what I consider amazing someone else may frown at. Whenever I am wine judging, and I have done so internationally on a few occasions, you always adopt a very general view point and score a wine on the basic criteria to include colour / aroma / flavour. You can spot hidden gems amongst tray after tray of wine samples and these rare wines of excellence are rightly rewarded, it is very unlikely that exceptional quality wines are missed by more than one wine judge and most times their scoring will run rather similar in such moments.“
Let us not forget that wines are judged on not only flavours, but aromas and colours too plus the likes of value for money, sustainability, ageing potential and more. Sometimes awards will categorise wines so they are judged in relevant categories such as sugar levels, price points, regions whereas some (like the Glass of Bubbly Awards) have all wines judged totally blind with each competing purely on the quality of visual / aroma / flavour.
Some awards will just have a couple to half a dozen wine judges who score all the wines whereas others will use multiple judges – Some awards may receive no more than a few dozen entries then again the bigger more internationally recognised awards accepting any and all wines can see 1,000’s if not 10,000’s of entries.
How do Wine Awards work? As mentioned, wine awards come in varied styles:
- Specific: (ie Sparkling Wine / Beaujolais / Sauvignon Blanc)
- Independent / Organised by governing bodies: Most wine awards will be run either by an independent company such as a wine marketing / events / PR agency or they are managed internally by representatives such as the governing body for Greek wines running an awards programme for Greek wines.
Example of Live Judging of London Wine Awards
Judges – Most times professional wine judges are used, they are people who have varying levels of knowledge from tasting wines. The best wine judges are those who are highly experienced in a certain style of wine or those with senior wine education (for example Master of Wine). Many wine judges will travel globally each year with countless invitations to partake in judging at wine awards.
The process, on most occasions, for wine awards is:
- Award entries open: Wineries send their sample wine bottles to a designated collection address after having paid an entry fee (usually between £75 – £200).
- Award entries closed: All the entries are recorded and placed in a specific order relevant to the awards programme. Each bottle is likely to be labelled with a specific code number and stored correctly ready for the day(s) of judging.
- Judging days: A selection of wine judges will arrive at a chosen location / venue and depending on the style of judging, will likely be seated individually or as part of groups. There will be a scoring system which will have been explained and necessary scoring papers / tablets with software ready so to record scoring. Wines, also known as flights, will be brought out throughout the day (usually from 30 to 100 samples are tasted daily) and each scored. Sometimes wines are scored more than once especially if they are being considered for Platinum Medals / Trophies. ‘Don’t forget, that professional wine judges taste and do not drink, they will spit out the wine once they have scored it‘.
Wine Awards Dinner in London – Glass of Bubbly
- Award results are announced: All the results will be released and usually this will be initially via an evening dinner where the main trophies / prizes are given and thereafter by website update / emails / post. Usually, a winery will be given a certificate and depending on the level of achievement, a trophy. Sometimes the tasting notes from the judges are also shared.
- After awards: The competition will send out all the artwork required so that wineries can print their badges or add any medals to their marketing literature.
Why are Wine Awards so popular? Even though there are countless wine awards out there each year they still get many entries. The wine sector is a very big one and there can be anything up to 100,000 and more wineries functioning globally at any one time with countless more wines to choose from. Though not every winery will partake, it still leaves a huge market for wine award competitions which they themselves this time, compete for.
Within the sector, winemakers / producers see wine judges from particular competitions the authority in quality control and a good review from one or more of them can be an invaluable marketing tool. Certain wine award competitions are also admired more over others, especially within the wine sector itself and the importance of this is very high as most times wineries will sell on to trade within the wine sector – Only a smaller portion of wine production is sold directly from the winery to the consumer.
“Medal badges on bottles are a great marketing tool. As one wine producer once said to me ‘a gold medal badge on our bottle allows us to charge £1 more per sale so with our 100,000 bottle production annually that means a £100,000 added value’.“
Why should consumers look out for wine award badges on bottles: Most wine competitions are strict on quality as are the judges, only the very best will receive a gold medal and above, with bronze and silver medals still having to pass above average criteria. You can usually be assured that the wine you purchase, that displays a medal badge, is a very good example of its type.
Wine Awards attract a lot of media interest – Glass of Bubbly Awards 2018
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.