Each year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, there are judges who come from all over the world to lend their expertise. For some, this year will be their first time being involved with the competition, and for others, like Peter Bell, this is a yearly tradition.
Peter Bell, the Senior Winemaker at Fox Run Winery in Penn Yan, New York has been a judge at the FLIWC every year since its inception except for 2004, when he was away on sabbatical in Australia. He has become a valued part of the competition and a great supporter of Camp Good Days.
Even though wine is now Peter’s life, it took him a little while to become part of the industry. “In my late twenties, it finally occurred to me what profession I needed to be in,” Peter said. “Becoming a winemaker was, at the time, a highly unorthodox thing to do, especially for a city boy like me. I did what it took to be accepted in a degree program in Wine Science in Australia. That was way back in 1986. My first vintage was in 1988.”
Every year at the FLIWC, each wine is judged on its own merit – its presence, balance and varietal character – not by how it compares to other wines in the flight.
Wines are blind judged in flights, with each wine identified only by a computer-generated code number. Each glass is labeled with this code number and the judges are given a scoring sheet with the number and the type of wine. All flights are staged in a separate back room and delivered to the judging room. Re-pours, when necessary, from a second unopened bottle are also staged in the back room.
Each judge will taste around 200 wines over the course of the weekend, but there is always a wine that stays in each judge’s memory. “There was that time my panel got a flight of ice wines, one of which was actually a jalapeno-infused ice wine that we were not given any prior knowledge of,” Peter said. “It was the freakiest thing ever, but I could find absolutely nothing to criticize about it, so I gave it a Gold. And, as it happens, all the other judges on my panel felt the same way, so it got a Double Gold.”
This year, Peter will be joined by about 50 other judges, all of whom will be able to taste some of the best wines in the world.