As some of you may remember, I have been a regular juror at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, the international wine competition that travels to a different country every year. This year was my third time at the competition and first as the President of one of the Jury panels. Here’s an account of my experience of ‘Chairing a Panel’ at CMB 2016 held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The 23rd edition of the internationally renowned wine competition Concours Mondial de Bruxelles was held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria from April 29 to May 1, 2016. There were 350 jury members from all over the world who judged around 9000 wines during those three days. The members were divided into various jury panels and each jury panel had 5 to 6 members. My panel had 5 members, including myself as the President of the Jury.
Now, remember the famous line from the movie Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Except that, here, a President is responsible for more than a few things.
This is an essential aspect of chairing a panel. Every morning each jury is served around 50 or more wines, divided into 4 or 5 flights. And every panel is given around 4 hours to complete the tastings. It is the duty of the President to coordinate with the sommelier as well as the panel members to finish the task in the stipulated time frame. As there are times when prolonged discussions or rather debates over a particular wine could upset the schedule, the president is expected to rationally allot time to each wine.
Thanks to the great organizational skills of the CMB team, before the competition every jury member, receives a mandate explaining the CMB process of scoring each wine. And during the competition, while judging the wines, one has to pay attention to the flight no and sequence etc. However, if you are the President of a panel, you are required to do much more than that. Days leading up to the competition, every selected President receives a mandate from the organizing team stating the duties that he/she is required to perform. So that prepares you for the responsibility.
Understand the process
The president needs to be meticulous with the entire process. To manage the tasting sessions with due diligence, every time a wine is served, you have to check that it is the same wine on the sheet that needs to be filled in. After the scoring of each wine, the president is required to collect the score sheets from the jury members and place the sheets in the corresponding envelopes by flight.
Listen to your fellow jury members
Be friendly yet professional with the fellow judges. Listen to their feedback or comments on a wine, respect their difference of opinion, and don’t impose your views on the members or try to change their judgment. As judging wines blind could sometimes be tricky, it is best to keep everyone’s views/ scores/ judgment in mind and yet have an independent approach.
When in doubt, consult
It is inevitable that sometimes, the wine samples could be oxidized or corked. In such a situation, the competition allows the panel to call for a second bottle of the same wine. Only the president has the authority to take the call. The process for this is scrupulous. The president has to fill in a form and give it to the sommelier. If the second bottle displays the same result, the word ‘rejected’ has to be specified on the required box, justifying document-featuring explanation once again handed to the assigned sommelier. This has to happen in consultation with the fellow jury members. In the end, if you are still in doubt, the organizing committee has a designated taster who you could consult to take the final decision.
One of the most honoured moments for me was when the president of the panel that I was a part of during my first time at CMB walked up to me and said, “I am so glad to see you chairing a panel this year. Do you know that you are probably one of the youngest Presidents at CMB 2016?” My point here is that responsibilities aside, it is a great honour to lead a group of fellow judges who are experts in their own right. If you are confident, it certainly helps in the smooth conduct of the competition.
Above all, enjoy the Process
I certainly had a great time judging some fabulous wines during those few days alongside my fellow jury members Javier Pascual from Spain, Elena Miloshevska from Macedonia, Carlos Alves from Portugal and Nikolay Tsvetkov from Bulgaria. While we agreed on most of our judgments, we certainly had our moments of disagreements, but overall it was a great fun, learning and exciting experience.
In 2017, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles will travel to Valladolid, Spain.
On the left : Chairman of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and managing director of Vinopres, Baudouin Havaux with the team of organisers.
To see the list of medal winners at the CMB 2016 competition, please click here.