With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio nearing its close, I couldn’t help noticing how many wine producing countries were prominent in the Medals Table. Does this reveal some hitherto undiscovered benefit of wine? Perhaps not! Indeed, I suspect that, for most of the competitors, wine is nowhere on their training schedule.
But, it did start me thinking about an Olympics for wine. In fact, there are already wine competitions in virtually every wine region but few that could truly be called Olympic in scale; I know of only 2: the International Wine Challenge and the Decanter Annual World Wine Awards. In both, thousands of wines are tasted by panels of expert judges with their favourites awarded medals. But, wine is a very personal thing; I always wonder whether a different judge on a different day might produce a different medal winner.
But, like judges in, say, diving or gymnastics, there are certain basic principles to follow. For me, these were best summarised by Jane Hunt MW with the acronym BLIC: Balance, Length, Intensity and Complexity. A high quality wine needs to be balanced – no one component should dominate, so alcohol, acidity, fruit, tannin should all harmonise. It should be long in the mouth; after you’ve swallowed or spit out, the longer the flavours remain with you, the better the wine. Intensity is important, too – a wine may be subtle but the flavours should be definite and pronounced, not wishy-washy. And finally, you should look for complexity – if you can only taste one flavour, the wine is unlikely to be great; a favourite phrase of mine to describe a good wine is that ‘there’s a lot going on’ – many different flavours and each time you taste, you discover something new.
So, if you get all of those, the wine might be worthy of a medal. But do you like it? That’s another question entirely!