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2009 Grand Harvest Awards: Wine competition furthers its search for terroir

The 2009 Grand Harvest Awards, an international wine competition produced by Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, completed its mission of recognising outstanding wines from all over the world and simultaneously studying the effects of terroir on wine characteristics. Now in its 19th year, the Grand Harvest Awards was held February 18–20 at Sonoma Mountain Village, Rohnert Park, California. Complete results are posted at www.vwm-online.com/gha.

Twenty-one judges (seven panels of three) evaluated over 1600 entries and awarded a total of 1193 medals including 142 gold, 493 silver and 558 bronze. Garnering medals at the Grand Harvest Awards has been tough to achieve historically because of its high standards of excellence. Wine competitions are invaluable purchasing tools that help consumers choose from over 5000 wineries in the US alone.

Most entries in the Grand Harvest Awards were grown and produced in the United States and Canada with some originating in Australia, Eurasia (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey), Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and South America (Argentina and Chile).

Competition chairman Bill Traverso was impressed by the strength of entries from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. “We awarded 12 gold medals to wineries from the Midwest,” said Traverso. “They have clearly figured out which varieties to grow and how to grow them.”

Selected for their knowledge of regional typicity, the judges represent some of the most qualified experts in the industry: food and beverage media, winemakers, wine marketers, enology and viticulture professors and researchers, restaurateurs and sommeliers, hospitality and tourism consultants, and fine wine retailers.

Judge Tom Simoneau, “The Wine Guy” of KSRO News Talk 1350 (Sonoma County, Calif.) and winemaker at Simoneau Vineyards, sees the silver lining to the phylloxera epidemic that struck California vineyards in the 1980s and 90s and the replanting that followed. “Winegrowers found their niche by selecting the best clones and rootstock for their regions in the post-phylloxera era,” said Simoneau, “and consequently, my panel was able to identify the specific appellation and sub-appellation of many flights.”

Judge Eric Degerman, managing editor of Wine Press Northwest, said that numerous wines from the Pacific Northwest showed very well in the competition: “The ripeness of syrah from Oregon’s Rogue and Umpqua Valleys was superb while the white varietals from British Columbia had exceptional structure.”

The Grand Harvest Awards is the only North American wine competition that presents entries to judges according to regional classification. Wines of particular appellations are arranged in flights (mostly groups of 10) and evaluated by judges who are not privy to their geographic origin or producer, knowing only varietal name when relevant. In contrast, other competitions group wines by varietal name and suggested retail price.

Beyond the determination of medals, the Grand Harvest Awards also recognizes entries that best exemplify the terroir of their respective viticultural areas, and acknowledges the influence of terroir on wine quality. After evaluating each flight, judges are encouraged to discuss their impressions in order to identify the signature elements of terroir and their link to regional typicity (wine characteristics that are common to particular growing regions).

While it has no scientific definition, terroir is considered to be the combined expression of soil, climate, elevation and topography in the aroma and flavor of wine beyond clone and rootstock selection, cultural practices, and winemaking techniques.

The Grand Harvest Awards is a division of Vineyard & Winery Services, the publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine (www.vwm-online.com), the Wine Industry Index and Wineries of the Index on compact disc. Based in Santa Rosa, California, the multimedia corporation also produces seminars, conferences and trade shows (Wineries Unlimited, Tasting Room Profitability, Wine Club Summit, and Managing the Winery Laboratory) as well as two other wine competitions (International Eastern Wine Competition and West Coast Wine Competition).

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