With so many wine competitions it can be hard to know which ones to enter. But if you’re a producer or an emerging wine region or country looking to build your profile and find any new way to make a story for your wine, then arguably the most important thing to do is enter. Give yourself a chance to be a contender. Lilla O’Connor, of Wines of Hungary, explains why she’s so proud of the efforts Hungarian producers have made in this year’s major wine competitions like the International Wine Challenge and why it’s so important for the country as a whole.
It’s hard enough for an emerging wine country to stand out on a wine list or supermarket shelf, but tasted blind at a major international wine competition then it’s a level playing field and if you’re wine is good enough then it should get the medal and acclaim it deserves.
Fifty countries, over 15,000 wines entered (it’s hard to get an official figure) makes the International Wine Challenge one of the biggest wine competitions in the whole wide world. Medals do not come easy.
Wines come in flights of five, 10, 20 a time, all in bags, of course, categorised by varietal, and by country. If there are enough entries for a country, they open a new category.
A few Hungarian wine folks, including myself, have the good fortune to judge at the IWC. Whenever we hear a judging table has got a Hungarian flight, which is unfortunately fairly rare, our eyes light up and our hearts beat faster. Not that we are allowed to judge our wines I hasten to add, but we start to think about the flavours of our home land and look forward to hearing what the judges think of the wines.
Which this year appears to be extremely positive for Hungary received two golds, 16 silvers, 14 bronzes, 17 commended medals out of around 60 Hungarian wines entered. If we look at that in percentage terms that means around 3% of Hungarian wines entered received a Gold medal, which is close to par, (3.5% overall), Silver represents 27% (vs 17.8%) and Bronze 23% (22.5%). Overall, including Commended awards, Hungarian wines were 81% successful, which is excellent.
As to the individual wineries, I need to emphasise a medal is only a medal. What is at stake apart from pride? The IWC provides a good tool for selling your wine, once you have a good agent who puts in the effort to sell your wine in the UK. For that to work then not only does the wine and the price have to be good, but you need to put in the effort to ensure your wines are being tasted by as many people as possible. You are, after all, building your brand in this market from scratch. Your work will also help create larger demand for the wider brand – Hungarian wine.
Have to make it happen
An IWC medal won’t work wonders for you. You can’t expect to just sit back and wait for people to get in touch with you. It is great to be able to say that your wines have been tasted by many prestigious palates and they liked it. Hungary has great terroir, we have very skilled and creative winemakers and lovely fruit. We also have a beautiful, albeit unpronounceable, language, with many indigenous grapes that no-one had ever tried.
When I taste a varietal that I don’t know I can still give you my views about its colour, acidity, tannins, alcohol, balance, secondary and tertiary notes and so on. Sometimes when people try things for the first time they may not like it. The best example is coffee or Marmite? So the only way to get better results is to keep trying.
In my view, to receive so many silvers is a good sound results for Hungary. We are not outstanding yet, but why should we be? Why expect ourselves to achieve excellence in just 30 years? We are competing against nations that already have many famous wines with vintages going back 100 plus years, so it will take a little longer than the past 30 years to make a difference.
What we have achieved in those short years, however, is outstanding. Good is outstanding. We need to be able to listen, understand and learn. We need to learn the ability to be patient. So I hope everyone interprets the results the right way.
Congratulations to Patricius Winery and all award winning Hungarian Wines for the great results on the International Wine Challenge 2018 results: Patricius Borház Royal Tokaj, Csányi Pincészet, Tokaj-Oremus Pincészet, Disznókő, Tokaj, Hétszőlő Tokaj, Tornai Pincészet-Somló, Zombory Pince, St. Andrea Borászat, Grand Tokaj, Barta Pince, Nyakas Pincészet, Kovacs Nimrod Winery, Törley Pezsgopincészet, Gere Attila Pincészete.
Where will we be next year?