Opening Texsom IWA with a palate calibration exercise – two top award wines from last year
photo from June Rodil MS
The last two days have been spent judging wines from around the world for the annual Texsom International Wine Awards (TIWA). The event brings top tasters from across the planet together to judge global wines. It’s one of my favorite events of the year as the way the tasting panels are designed is a hugely educational experience and the caliber of tasters in the room is mind boggling. There is no other event that brings together such a high concentration of distinguished wine professionals from all aspects of the wine industry. In addition to the wine judges the wine service is handled by top sommeliers and buyers from all over North America. It’s one of those events where essentially every person that walks by stirs a jolt of recognition and high regard for what they’ve accomplished in their careers. Even better, everyone here seems to recognize the import of our being here – that we are surrounded by the best in field for the wine world to respectfully review and award wines from across both hemispheres – and to be genuinely grateful for the opportunity. Event meals are such an awesome chance to hang out and catch up with each other.
TIWA originates out of the Dallas Morning News Awards started in 1985 by Rebecca Murphy. Rebecca did a remarkable job building an internationally recognized wine award program after first focusing on wines of the United States. For the first 14 years of the event the competition provided a kind of seedy and growth opportunity for producers all over the country as she included top tasters from the US wine well respected by the nation’s wine professionals. Eventually the program expanded to assess global wines. The event became an opportunity not only to award top wines but also for tasters to gain greater insight into regions around the world.
This year the Awards received a record number of entries with 3581 wines from 28 countries and 25 US states. The selections included classic regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Rioja as well as newer categories like Mexico or Texas wines. The price range of wines submitted went from as little as $2.99 all the way to $700 with the average price being between $32 to $36.
Wine judging is handled by four-judge panels focused on discussion to achieve consensus. By creating panels of four judges final decisions can never be reduced to a swing vote and instead judging panels discuss their assessment before the final award is determined. The discussion is one of my favorite parts of being a judge for TIWA. Judges are also encouraged to set aside wines that they want to allow more time for so that they can be more carefully assessed. What I learn not only about my fellow judges’ views of wines but also about my own tasting process and preferences from the discussion is both fascinating and irreplaceable. All wines are tasted blind by category so that we are given the wine appellation, grape type or blend and vintage, but we never know the price or producer. Because of the care that goes into discussing assessments as well as the caliber of judges present wines that are otherwise rarely entered in competitions make it into TIWA.
Tasting at TIWA is also a unique opportunity to get to know a regions’ overall profile and quality as judges are often give the position of tasting wines from across an entire area. Though individual producers aren’t known, since wines are all tasted blind, tasting through an entire category and region can do a lot to educate a judge on the state of wines in a specific part of the world. Tasting here has led me to further investigate wines from an area after in a way I wouldn’t have known to do otherwise.
After the completion of TIWA judging the Sommelier team stays on for an educational component focused on learning more effective wine writing handled through both a writing seminar and then writing the actual tasting notes for TIWA award winning wines, and then a series of seminars on various topics from the wine, beverage, food and service world. This year, for example, I am leading a seminar on Arizona wine. We just finished a super fascinating class on tea.
If you want to see this year’s list of judges you can check them out here: https://www.texsomiwa.com/Judges/Profiles
This year’s serving sommeliers can be seen here: https://www.texsomiwa.com/Somms/Profiles
Results for this year’s award winning wines will be announced by Texsom IWA later this Spring. Keep an eye out for them on their website: https://www.texsomiwa.com/featured/wines
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