It's Thursday. Fifth day of judgment at International Wine Challenge. This year, because of the Covid situation, we had to change things a bit. Unfortunately we are missing the international judges this year which is a big loss as they bring a lot of perspective to the proceedings. And the teams went from five to three, to allow for proper spacing. We also moved into two large, one-bedroom rooms - again, for reasons of spacing.
The panels remain the same every day as well - one of the highlights of the judging here was the tasting with different people each day. I really enjoyed being a committee chair in large part because of that. Each day, your team may include one or two people you know, but also people with whom you have never judged before. The stages of Tuckman's group development were obvious - usually by mid-morning you would arrive at the stage (see here).
My job over the past few years has been as co-chair. There are six of us and our job is to act as moderators. Each flight is edited as it comes out of the ground, and we look at the verdict rendered by the panel. A co-president will make the first pass and mark the proposed modifications to the jury's score. A second co-chair will then review all wines for which a change has been suggested and agree or disagree with the change. Any change requires the agreement of two co-chairs.
We don't make changes for the fun of it. The panels had a great time deliberating, so we use the medical principle of primum non nocere (above all, do no harm). The last thing we want to do is mess up some fundamentally good results.
Signs are important. Research shows that when it comes to making decisions, two heads look better than one.
But judging wine is difficult. It's not as simple as saying, how much I love this wine? Experience and skills help, and being able to taste well in a competitive context is quite a skill.
We find that the panels do a great job most of the time. We have a feedback process that seeks to promote the best judges, and sometimes we have to let the judges go (although this may be due to their interpersonal skills in teamwork as much as their tasting ability).
But sometimes, in our co-chair, we find a flight that has been badly rated or that has been over-rented. Our job is to have the kind of perspective - to taste it all - that we can even things out. And some wines are missed: real gems that have somehow gone unnoticed.
All competition is judged by results and not by process. We want the best wines to win. We believe that for the sake of the producers who have paid to enter their wines, they deserve every chance, and the safety net of the co-chairmanship process really helps to achieve that.
After today, we still have a day of judging, then a well-deserved weekend, before the trophies on Monday and Tuesday.
Reminder: this blog is updated irregularly, but there are daily updates on the main wineanorak site.
We would recommend either Wineworks Premium or Wineworks Superior as your first 30 Bottle Kit Wine. Both of these ranges are designed to produce a good quality wine that is ready to drink within 2-4 weeks but will benefit if left up to 6-8 weeks. Furthermore, they also have a great selection of wines to choose from.
If you’ve never made wine before or you simply don’t have any of the equipment or ingredients any longer then you could purchase one of our bundles. These bundles combine all the required equipment along with your prefered wine coffret so that you can have everything delivered to your door and just get started. The Wineworks Superior Starter Bundles are a great choice if you want to keep the equipment budget down but still choose the quality of wine you’d like to go for. Whereas, the Wineworks Luxury Starter Bundles offer a better quality equipment pack and still let you choose from a great choice of wine kits.
The two most important critères of making wine are Cleanliness and Temperature. Firstly remember everything that comes into contact with the wine should be cleaned and sterilised ( see below ). Secondly maintain a constant temperature between 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ). It is much better to be on the cool side and constant than hot one minute and cold the next. Airing cupboards are definitely no, no’s. ( See below )
Clean and sterilise all equipment. Here’s a selection of Sterilisers you can use and if you not quite sure which steriliser to go for then you can take a look at our Beginners Wine Making Part 1 - Cleaning, Sterlising
Wineworks Superior wines : These usually take 10-15 days to ferment, and a further week to clear. Again the wine can be drunk immediately but we recommend ageing it 4 weeks but you can leave it up to 12 months. The time you will leave it will depend very much on your stocks. So get plenty built up. The reds benefit more than the whites with ageing. Certain kits ( see the list below ) are suited more to the experienced wine maker and take around 4 weeks to ferment and then left for a further 2 weeks. These products does really benefit from ageing. All the packs we list in this section require little ageing.
As it’s new to you it will probably take in all 2 hours for your first batch. However, once you are used to it 1 hour is about the maximum amount of time needed. We would also point out bar the bottling side; it takes just as long to make 6 bottles as it does to make 30 bottles, so we strongly recommend you make the larger quantity. After all 6 bottles doesn’t go very far as we said before !
From our experience it is much better to maintain a constant temperature than a fluctuating one. We suggest 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ), although if it is cooler than this, it is not a problem, it just takes slightly longer to ferment. If you can’t maintain this then we supply three different forms of heating equipment : Brew Belt / Heat BeltThis is a simple insulated electric cable that wraps round your container and provides a gentle heat. It is very souple and extremely easy to use. Heat Tray ( 4 demi/5 Gallon Fermenter ) This is like a flat tray that provides a gentle continuous heat that goes under the fermenter. Immersion HeaterThis drops into the conteneur, through the bung and can be thermostatically controlled to maintain the exact temperature. Similar to a fish tank heater. All these can be added to our starter coffret packages. See our video showing the variétés of heating equipment available for your fermentation.
It is important to clean
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully understanding a bit of what we’ve said, then you’ll want to know how much it will cost to get started ! As you may have noticed, we’ve put together a couple of equipment kits which include everything you need, and take the confusion out of buying. You can make your first 30 bottles of Wine for approximately £65. 00. That’s all in ( Equipment