In 1976, California wines competed against French wines in a blind tasting which is now known as the Judgement of Paris. California wines were considered inferior to French, and judges, reporters and participants were not expecting the American wines to come out on top. California’s victory changed the wine industry completely. If the idea of this event intrigues, why not check out Kingston’s very own tribute. The Judgement of Kingston is celebrating its third year. It aims to showcase the wines of Prince Edward County as a high-quality wine region, while reproducing the competition level of what happened in Paris in 1976.
Last year, the competition pitted the Pinot Noir reds of Prince Edward County against the Burgundy Pinot Noir. My wife Laura and I were intrigued by the premise and figured ‘why not?’ I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect when we got our tickets, except that we would probably be sampling some fantastic wines in a formal setting with other wine enthusiasts, and judging the wine based on our tastes and not from where it came from.
One thing that I have learned in wine appreciation is that wine does not need to be expensive or from a certain region to be good. The appeal of wine for the consumer is based on a variety of factors, from country, how the wine was pressed and barrelled, to the climate and soil (terroir) that the vines of the grape grow in. We had spent some time researching what Burgundy wines were like, and my wife and I even sampled a few wines in anticipation of the event.
When we walked into the Residence Inn on the waterfront, the ballroom looked like a wedding reception with a head table for the judges and round circular tables for the guests. Sitting down, Laura and I looked at the blank tasting notes which we would use to detail what we tasted, and then help rank the wines based on our opinion. The judges for the evening were introduced, and with all due respect, Laura and I didn’t really pay attention to them. The only opinion that would matter in our minds was ours.
Having visited several Prince Edward County wineries, we both had noted that terroir played a factor in the taste of Prince Edward County wine. There was a distinctive limestone taste that could be found in many of the wines, and when our first glass was poured, we had a rough idea of what we thought would be a trademark Prince Edward County attribute.
The problem is that once you start to sample good wine, and it was all good wine, your pallet can play tricks on you. What you think you taste may not actually be there. Also, listening to the observations of everyone at our table and talking about what we were sampling can also help form decisions in your mind.
Servers came around with bottles covered in paper bags and numbers written on the side. While friendly, the servers did not give any hints or clues as to where the wine might be from. Between glasses, we made our notes and we talked around the table about what we thought was in our glass.
What a fantastic date night, where Laura and I could sit amongst adults. The background chatter circulating throughout the room of ‘What do you taste?’ and ‘Where do you think it comes from?’ was on everyone’s lips. Between servings, patrons made bids at the silent auction table.
All the wine served this night was incredible. The skills of the winemakers came through in each glass. Notes of cinnamon, pepper, and dark red fruits were just some of the comments that were brought up at our table, and certainly at many more around the room.
By the time we reached our final glass, our table had discussed at length what we thought of the wines, how we would rank them, and where they might have been from. Now it was up to the judges to reveal their decisions and the reasoning behind it.
Attendees were asked to place their cards in the jar representing their favoured wine from the tasting, and then we all sat to listen to the judges explain their decision. While a Burgundy Pinot Noir claimed victory and second place in the competition, a Prince Edward County wine came third. Interestingly, the third place Prince Edward County wine, was first choice from the audience.
The battle for wine supremacy cannot be settled with a simple tasting. The appeal of wine is different for each person, and though I disagreed vehemently with the judge’s decision on my first outing at the Judgement of Kingston, I look forward to this year’s event on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.
2018 is the battle of Canadian Chardonnay between Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. If you have any sort of love for wine, the Judgement of Kingston is an event you must check out. If you have never sampled a glass of wine before, why not start at the Judgment of Kingston.