Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Next Gen vs The Chronicle: One judge, two competitions

By Jessica Yadegaran
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 6:43 pm in Corkheads.

The NextGen Wine Competition judges

2010 Chronicle Wine Competition Judges

What’s the saying? A picture says a thousand words?

As a judge, I didn’t see too many differences between Next Gen Wine Competition for Millennial Wine Drinkers, which I wrote about on July 28 in the Contra Costa Times, and more traditional competitions, like the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this past January.

If anything stands out in the photo above, it’s that I felt young on the Chron jury. On the Next Gen jury, I almost felt old. At 34, I was one of the oldest judges there. Funny, eh?

So, what of this age gap? What did I notice? Certainly, it’s hard to compare a competition in its infancy with one pushing 30 years. But here are some basics.

Wine entries: Chronicle, 5,000. NextGen: 750.

Total judges: Chronicle, 60. NextGen, 20.

Female judges: Chronicle, 13. (Yeah, ouch). NextGen, 9.

Judges under 40: Chronicle, 5 (an educated guess). NextGen, 20.

Level of late-night partying: About even, surprisingly. Though I don’t think the 60-somethings at the Chron competition were getting thrown out of hotel rooms and filling up a millennial winemaker’s bathtub with Palmolive. Then lathering up. Then again, maybe I just wasn’t invited.

Uniforms: Chron, white lab coats over jeans and sweatshirts. Next Gen, we risked wine stains as you can see in the photo above, courtesy of Millennier.

Jokes: Chron, Minnesotan farmers, sex, and goats. Next Gen, Twitter jabs.

Procedure: Almost identical. Judging is by consensus using multiple panels of 3 to 6 members. A head judge fosters dialogue, tallies medals, and calls it.

Certainly, in the end, a balance of ages, gender, and cultures is necessary to glean accurate results.

At Next Gen, what surprised me the most was that despite an image that exudes independence in decision-making and lack of snobbery about money or status, a good many Next Geners were pumping their Riedels in disgrace over that Best of Show winning $6 Barefoot Moscato, which is, at the moment, the best selling Moscato in the country.

“C’mon you guys, do we really want a Barefoot Moscato to represent us,” yelled a certain outspoken judge on the jury after the results were read. She wasn’t the only one who had sung its praises and voted for the wine two minutes earlier.

I was a bit surprised. Had the wine’s pleasing aroma, stunning acidity, and all over yum factor evaporated in the glass? All of a sudden, it was chaptalized, meaning sugar had been added to the grape must to increase the alcohol after fermentation. All of a sudden, because it was a mainstream brand that real consumers can afford, it sucked. Sad.

As Johnny Slamon, a Fifth Floor sommelier and fellow judge later said to me, “I think reactions like that just go to show how much pressure is on us and how much we want to be taken seriously. I feel like too often we’re told by the old school that only first growth Bordeaux is worthy of winning medals.”

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  • Shauna

    Very interesting comparisons, and always well written. You know I’m a fan of your’s Jessica!
    Now, contrasting opinion time. : )

    I was a judge in the NextGen Competition who did NOT vote for the Barefoot Muscato. Blind I thought it tasted like sweet, soapy, gasoline. Not a wine I care for.
    After I left the competition, I even bought another bottle, just to re-evaluate…after all, we had tasted 150+ wines by sweepstakes!
    But again…I couldn’t even swallow it, and in a blind tasting, none of my friends liked it either.

    Much love!

  • Jessica Yadegaran

    I hear ya and understand. While I found the Moscato pleasing, I actually voted for its final competitor, a Finger Lakes Riesling, I believe?

    Thanks for the comment!