Bottle with this medal sticker!
When you happen to face a wine bottle with one of these shiny stickers during your wine shopping, it will kind of give you the feeling that this is the wine I should try. It is true, that it is a bottle which went through the tough high profile competition. The competition is based on top wine experts’ rigorous judging process, not based on individual personal judgement.
There are several trusted sources of wine recommendation, but Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) is special. It is probably less-known than Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), but as a sister competition to DWWA, DAWA is Asia’s largest and most trusted wine competition and the majority of judges are from countries in Asia. It started 4 years ago in 2012, for the purpose to recognize and award the quality wines and more importantly, to provide a reliable source of recommendations for consumers in the region. Once the competition results are finalized, Decanter organizes tastings around the world to give consumers a chance to try medal-winning wines.
Decanter score or award medals are not well known to Korean wine consumers, but Decanter in partnership with Mashija Magazine, hosted the first consumer tasting in Seoul of DAWA medal winning wines on December 5.
The tasting event date was set in early 2016, long before the September judging week. When I heard of the tasting event news, I already started looking forward to it. There are influential scores or awards out there, such as Robert Parker’s, Wine Spectator, or IWC (International Wine Competition) Award, but I had a different expectation about DAWA. The fact that the award wines are selected based on 40 judges mostly local to the Asian region – means that the selected medal winning wines should be pleasing to Asian palate. It was also perceived to be special, as it would be the FIRST consumer tasting event in Korea to experience Decanter medal-winning wines. I was personally thrilled.
My impression after the event? The tasting was special. I’ve been to number of tasting events and wine seminars before, but it was more like a wine tasting adventure for me.
There was a selection of 41 DAWA winning wines – styles and categories came from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Argentina, Australia, and Canada. Kindly enough, the wines were showcased in the order of tasting – from Sparkling, white, rose, red (from light to full body), to sweet wine. In the beginning, it was like a door buster event, people lined up to taste from the Italian prosecco first.
I just didn’t want to stick to the stereotype tasting order, so started from Rose from Loire, France. In the red wine section, there were 30 wines and I tasted back and forth from light to full body wines, trying to compare the difference.
My last sip was Portuguese Setubal. It was a peaceful last sip, wrapping up my tasting experience and deciding on my preference for wines. The warm, smooth and deep sweetness soothed my fatigued palate.
It is a bit of personal taste and I always love to try somewhat new, unique wines. Well, Korean wine market is relatively small and still at developing stage. You encounter same wine in the wine shops and you have to explore and search if you want something new.
In that sense, I was very excited to meet new and unexplored wines – such as Canadian red wines, Portuguese Setubal, Greek sweet wine at the tasting. Italian Chianti or Tuscan wines were not the ones currently available in the Korean market as well. So, can we expect new wines to be introduced to Korea?
The tasting was the first time that Decanter has hosted an event in Korea and I hope there will be more events for wine consumers to taste and enjoy various new wines. Frankly speaking, I even expected to see Chinese or Japanese wines, as both countries’ wines performed well in 2016 DAWA. – China received the “Icewine Gold Medal” and 16 other Chinese wines received silver medals. Japan’s Gris de Koshu won the “Platinum Best in show Medal” for best white single varietal.
I was given only a piece of paper – list of wines, upon registration before the event floor opened. No score, no trophy mark, no varietal, no other information was given. It was same for the judges when they tasted at the DAWA competition in Hong Kong in September. Judges tasted hundreds of wines for 3 days, but at the tasting event in Korea, you get to try 41 wines for 3 hours.
You can guess the varietal based on the origin, but not that easy to guess the blended varietals. You have to judge the wines on your own. Excellent, impressive, or only acceptable?
What score, which medal each wine received at the competition? When you know the result, you are already biased, so you should rely on your senses. After a round of tasting, you are supposed to choose top 3 wines to your preference.
Well, here you get confused looking at other tasters’ voting results. No, you should be confident enough trusting your taste and senses. In front of the voting board, I met an American who says this clearly shows Korean wine lovers’ taste. He might have had a difference choice from the most voted wines.
The tasting journey was over when I stamped 3 wines of my choice. When I finally got the booklet with competition results, I felt like I was a student checking an answer sheet. On my way home, it was a pleasant surprise, checking the score of my top 3 wines. One of my favorite red wines received only Bronze Medal! The other 2 were with Platinum and Platinum Best in Show Medals, so it was a good exercise.
There is no universal truth in the wine world. This is what I believe and actually this is why I love wines. Everyone has a personal taste and different preference. Depending on the context – occasion and people – same wine can give you a different impression. It is subjective, but wine competition is a blend of objective and subjective. The trophy sticker could be something to rely on when you select wines. The universal truth in DAWA is that whichever bottle you pick, it’s gotta be good. You can’t go wrong with it, but award sticker is just “for reference only”. Don’t forget that your personal taste is more important than anything else. Cheers for your choice of wine!
In 2016, over 40 judging panel, ranging from top sommeliers, wine writers, wine educators, to importers, leading palates in the Asian region, judged 2,854 wines during DAWA judging week in September in Hong Kong.
From Korea, two judges were invited. Moon-Song Bang, Director of the Winevision WSET school and Dong-hyuk Shin sommelier at the Jungsik restaurant and wine bar in Seoul.
The judges taste wines individually. Medal categories correspond to the 100-point scoring system used by Decanter and see the details below:
Platinum best in show: 15 wines
Platinum Medal: 27 wines
Gold Medal: 59 wines
Silver Medal: 554 wines
Bronze Medal: 1,368 wines