Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Wine Evaluation Training Program" with Appalachian State and the North Carolina Wine Growers Association (NCWGA)

On Tuesday, April 2nd, Chuck and I went to the Wine Evaluation Training Program sponsored by the NCWGA.  It was held at Raffaldini and that alone made the trip worthwhile. ( at least for me )  In all honesty, I came away with many negative feelings about the process, but I also realize that the two sponsors of the process are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Regardless, the program was an excellent attempt to establish sensory awareness for all the people that were in attendance.  We all had a wonderful opportunity to “taste” about 15 different wines, all with faults in them.  Some of the faults were so severe, I could not even bring myself to taste it after enduring the aroma.  The overall experience was terrific.

If I understand the process, there will be two forms of evaluation - lab and sensory.  It will be possible for a wine to be rejected if it fails the lab evaluation based on technical criteria.  I believe the sensory panel is more advisory than evaluative.  The end product of the process will be that a wine that passes the process would be entitled to use a NCWGA Seal that would certify that it is free of major faults.  It also seems to me that the public, upon seeing the seal, may assume that it speaks to the overall quality of the wine.  Nothing could be further from the reality.  There came a time in the meeting when people were asked if a wine that had, in my opinion, serious flaws was marketable and I was surprised to see the number of people that signaled their belief that it should be.

The crux of my concern is this - If a wine carries a seal that signifies approval and yet is a generally poor example of good wine, what does that communicate about North Carolina wines?  If I were buying a wine and saw the seal and had a less than joyful experience after I opened it, my view would be somewhat negative about North Carolina  wines.  That is my impression of the problem that I see.   I think that assessment is a fair representation of what I heard and experienced.

The tasting was supported by Appalachian State and NCWGA.  I think they are both in a difficult position.  I believe they are trying to do something that is very positive.  They also have to tiptoe around two issues.  If App State participates in an evaluation in which wines are failed based on a subjective taste criteria, they are in the difficult position of having a negative impact upon a group that funds them - tax payers.  If NCWGA does the same thing, it is taking a position against some of the wines of the members.  They are both in a difficult position.

I can tell you that I enjoyed the tasting.  I think I learned a lot.

Pete Fland
Chuck Blethen is in agreement with this content.

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