My first visit to the beautiful and tranquil city of Strasbourg was for the Les Grands Concours du Monde 2014. Seventy-five judges from around the continent as well as the United States and as far as Australia gathered to judge white wines only.
The wines, riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, sylvaner and pinot blanc, came from 19 countries around the world. Not having judged at any European wine show apart from London, this was a first for me.
My judging panel was a panel of six with a diverse array of backgrounds — a Swiss lawyer who specialises in international wine law, two wine inspectors one each from Germany and Luxemburg, a French organoleptic expert, a French winemaker and a president (similar to a panel chair) who presided over the results.
Interestingly, the wine show — like all wine shows in Europe or those that are part of the European Union — are conducted according to Organisation of International Viticulture (OIV) rules. The 100-point wine rating is one of these rules and is being rapidly embraced at wine shows here in Australia. Instead of the 20-point judging scale — three for colour, seven for nose and 10 for palate, many Australian shows are switching to this 100-point European method — 25 for colour, 28 for nose, 35 for palate and 12 for overall harmony = 100 points.
The wine show was extremely well organised, with everything done electronically. We, the judges, each had a handheld electronic device with a stylus pen. We tapped in our scores (with a set criteria) for each wine, and this was then sent immediately to the president with the median score being the final mark.
The reason why only white wines were judged at this show was because we were in Alsace, the ancestral home of nearly all the white wine styles listed above. It was an amazing experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
After the show, it was out into the vineyards to see first-hand the various villages in the Riquewihr district of Colmar and soak up the atmosphere of this world-renowned wine region. The Alsace region has more than 4500 wineries compared to Australia, which has around 2400.
First stop was the Dietrich Wine Estate established in 1854. We had a thorough tasting of Robert Dietrich’s wines which ranged from grand cru rieslings to Crémant d’ Alsace rose, pinot noir to pinot gris.
From there, we set off to Dopff and went through the complete range of wine styles from Crémant d’ Alsace Cuvee Julien Brut to Alsace Selection de Grains Gewürztraminer and everything in between. From Dopff we headed to Hugel and did the same tasting there. (The latter two wineries have wines that are imported into Australia). All in all, a whirlwind four-day visit but a memorable one. Then it was on to Champagne …