A New Style of Judging Champagne & Sparkling Wines
6th November 2017
“Ever since we created the concept of Glass of Bubbly, the days when we started with no followers and no likes, not a post yet to be shared on our website and not one glass of bubbly reviewed in our notebooks, the vision was to one day create industry awards that showcased outstanding Champagne & Sparkling Wines, but in a very different way… ” Christopher Walkey – Founder of Glass of Bubbly.
The judging days for The World’s finest Glass of Bubbly awards took place 23/24th of October 2017 at Marriott County Hall in Westminster – It was the events first ever outing and introduced nearly two years of preparations of devising a whole new way to judge wines – all our visions were put in to action to an intrigued guest list of some of the world’s top wine judges. Indeed, judgement day had arrived:
So, how did we get things off the ground in what is a very competitive sector of the industry in the face of some of the world’s giant authorities in judging Champagne and Sparkling Wines to include Decanter and International Wine Challenge? We needed to be different, to offer a unique way that wines could express themselves and that industry professionals judging would understand and back our concept so to deliver results that not only communicated to the industry, but importantly to consumers. Here’s where we called in the expertise of Tatiana Mann to help us turn our visions into reality.
“I have known Christopher and Eve for a few years now and I have always supported their brand Glass of Bubbly as I see it as a great communication channel that not only updates us in the industry, but importantly consumers too… sometimes wine awards are too focused on communicating results within the industry rather than out to consumers where most of the ‘wine purchasing’ is done. What Glass of Bubbly were looking to do I was confident that I would be able to express with unique new award titles.” Tatiana Mann.
“These awards fill a gap in reaching out to the consumer” Angela Reddin
The hundred point scoring system was still included in the main format of the judging process, but also included was a twenty point score for each applicable category, golden tickets along with different groups for judging to include those judging just on point scores and those judging just on how relevant a wine was to a category. The likes of Sea Breeze, Fruity & Floral, Gastronomic, Vintage and First Date were some of the categories where Trophy winners were found along with Gold, Silver, Bronze and Highly Commended.
“The use of categories is an excellent idea and I hope that the unique wording I created will help consumers in the future to understand what is inside the bottle better as we are not all professionals when it comes to selecting our wines!” Tatiana Mann
Judging on the day included invited guests such as respected wine author Michael Edwards:
“For me, selecting the best wine for the categories was the most exciting part of the judging” Michael Edwards
Further support from top industry professionals included Marin Berovič, Richard Bampfield MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Neil Sommerfelt MW, Laura Clay, Neil Phillips and many more.
“I chose Tatiana to help with our awards development to include not only the category sections, but also importantly all the admin such as judging forms and the way in which wines should be scored. Tatiana’s influence also attracted some respected names in the industry to support our awards which was amazing seeing as we were merely ‘selling my dream’ and had yet any track record to show.” Christopher Walkey
We caught up with Tatiana after all the scores were in and the trophy winning wines had been calculated to ask her some questions:
Who is Tatiana Mann?
I’m a UK based Russian wine professional, certified Educator in Sherry Wines and hold Diploma WSET along with degrees in both Chemical technology and Psychology.
Over 16 years of experience in producing world class wine, spirit and FMCG events for international brands (Diageo, LVMH, Pernod Picard) throughout Russia and working with United Kingdom, Italian, Indian and Spain markets. I have also been involved in judging wines across the world so understand different ways of thinking and communicating values of wines.
I have been involved with and work at the likes of Chateau Margaux, International Sherry Week, Simply Wine News, Burger and Lobster and many more. I also own my own Eno Gastro Pub in rural Essex which helps me to relax from the busy world of wine that I work in!
What attracted you to Glass of Bubbly and their vision of shaking up how Champagne & Sparkling Wines should be judged?
There were a few points, to be honest. Firstly I believed in what they wanted to do and Christopher gave me full freedom of creating the shape and style of the awards – I could fill the gap in communication of wines they were trying to build a reputation for (professional wine language nearly always doesn’t match with end consumers).
I have had many years of working in wine to include helping wine labels to sell wines to consumer so communication of what is inside the bottle is so important. I can remember situations in the past, such as when I was working at Christmas in the Selfridges wine shop and I struggled to sell Alsace wines – unless you were able to taste a wine there was little information on the bottles for customers to understand what style of wine they were buying, thus you could be missing out on a fantastic wine!
Consumers are not stuck with just Champagne these days, as an example traditional method sparkling wines are really good from Italy too and go through a similar making process so we need to communicate these values in a consumer friendly language so to enable wines to compete with each other fairly. Consumers do not know differences between traditional and non-traditional, malolactic or natural yeasts etc.
Wine: it’s the only one product in the word which many people buy blind without tasting and let us not forget that also it’s continuously changing in the bottle!
All this and more is why I decided upon the category names. Christopher’s help was also important as, with a non wine educated point of view, he always looks with consumer eyes.
Were you confident that the wine professionals would understand the new judging process and importantly accept and respect it?
Of course, I took a massive risk to work on this project and put my name to it. I remember I spoke with the owner of Coates and Seely, Mr Coates, and he said ‘Tanya there is not any place in market for this idea‘, but later in the year, during another awards event when I met with him, he asked to send him more information on what we were doing!
After creating the awards structure last year I chose to send them to a close contact of mine and experienced wine judge, Angela Reddin, to receive her feedback as we always need to hear other people’s viewpoints, I know Christopher did a lot of this also especially with Michael Edwards who he appointed as Honorary Judge of the whole awards.
As soon as the awards opened it was clear that much of the industry both had a high enough regard for the Glass of Bubbly brand to enter their wines, but they were also liking the new concept we had introduced – Without the entries, we would have no awards! Such was the response from wineries to our awards that we more than doubled our highest expectations for entries so this was very positive I feel. I hear that Glass of Bubbly have also received many positive emails and phone calls from those who judged both complimenting the new style of awards (I take great pleasure to know that the award names I created was accepted) and to also put their names down to judge again next year.
There is a complex algorithm behind the scenes for collecting scores and deciding results, yet keeping the process of judging as simple as possible as no one likes things to be over complicated.
All the judges were magnificent from the hard work on the first round where gold, silver, bronze and highly commended were decided along with relevant categories to the second part where many more judges joined us to decide overall category winners. It is important to keep the judges happy and to get from the judging process as much information as possible so that we can give the wineries who entered the most applicable scores and category descriptions. We not only had highly experienced wine judges flying in from all over the world, we also had top UK wine merchants, sommeliers, chefs, wine writers and passionate bubbly lovers to help us build the scores for each entry we received.
Do you think that the awards with these new categories were a success?
I believe so. We gave massive power to judges by the system that was created – It really gives them a chance to express what is inside the bottle they are tasting and judging and not just by awarding a gold or silver badge or a certain amount of points out of one hundred.
Can we expect to see more new categories next year?
Yes I am sure there will be. We have looked at this years judging process already and Christopher has already approached me to expand on the categories so we can really delve into highlighting the tasting experience that our award-winning wines will give to the consumers who purchase them. I already have in mind to expand one of the popular categories of Gastronomic to enable varied food styles such as Asian Cuisines, Meats etc. Watch this space!
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.