All wine shows in New Zealand and overseas have two parts to them – the front and the back. The front is the judging room and has judges who come from a variety of fields from winemakers, wine retailers, wine consultants and wine writers. The back room is covered by stewards - at the New World Wine Awards these are Liquor Managers and support centre staff who work in the liquor category. The stewards deliver the right wine to the right judge at the right time for the judging process to take place.

The New World Wine Awards uses the same system of blind tasting as all other wine shows so the judges only know the grape variety, vintage and in some cases the country of origin.

In fact it's a double blind system as wines entered into the competition are allocated a 4 digit code. Before the judging takes place they are then issued an alphabetic code which appears on the judging sheets. A triple blind system is used for repours, so repours are randomised and allocated a third code.

Only the stewards know the relationship between both codes and which wine each code relates to. The double and triple blind system ensures every wine is treated equally and judged only on its merits, plus there is no opportunity for a judge to recognise a wine.

The only people that are entitled to be in the front and back of a show are the stewards. No judge enters the back room where the wine has been set up. The steward's role is vital for delivering the right wine to the right panel, the right judge and right position for tasting. At most competitions you will find a judge who has been a steward at some stage so they understand the dynamics of the show and how important each role is to the success of the competition.

Before any judging can occur, the stewards set the competition up into panel order. The New World Wine Awards has five panels and the wines are placed in judging order which is randomised within their class/sub class. If a judge has entered their wines into the competition, their wines are judges by other panels. This process is administered through the Chief Steward who, through the help of a vital piece of software that runs the show, has organised the competition so each panel judges an equal proportion of the wines entered.

Each wine bottle is checked when placed in it's judging order, then checked again when the wine is placed in front of the tray of glasses before pouring. Stewards are vigilant in picking up label changes, vintage changes and if an entrant has inadvertently entered their entry into the wrong class.

The wines are divided into panels as mentioned and each team of stewards would deliver in excess of 600 glasses per day to the judges. Generally most judges would be expected to taste between 120 to 150 wines per day. The wines are divided into classes, sub classes and when delivered for judging are known as flights. Stewards are required to have stamina and be fit as we can walk around 15km a day delivering the glasses and clearing the used ones.

After the judges have judged their flight, they sit in their panels to discuss the marking and merits of each of the samples delivered to them. During this time the stewards clear the glasses in readiness for the next flight of the day. These glasses are taken to be washed and reused about six times during the course of a competition - this equates to a lot of glasses, lots of washing and lots of pouring.

A system is also in place where the judges call for new pours of a wine (from the same bottle) or if the wine has an issue in how it's made through cork taint, then a new bottle is called upon. All Gold medal wines have been chosen as a consensus between the panel members and are retried over all judges at the competition to ensure that the sample is true and correct to be entitled to bear the Gold award.

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