Vinitaly International Wine Competition 2014: Strict, Efficient, & Innovative...

The Vinitaly International Wine Competition was an event that I once only dreamed of attending. In the last 4 days, not only my wishes came true, but I also discovered how strict, efficient and extremely well organized the proceedings are.

The 21st edition held last week included 2,600 different wines from 30 different countries and evaluated by 105 wine judges from around the world.  Unlike most international wine competitions, only 3% of all submissions received a medal.  To put things in perspective, others give medals to up to 30% of the wines submitted.  That makes Vinitaly one of the most, if not THE most, selective in the world.  

Another particularity was the way wine samples were managed on delivery to VeronaFiere, the organization behind Vinitaly.  Each received a preliminary numeric code at reception and, a few weeks before the event, they were inserted in a masking sleeve and re-labeled by an appointed lawyer who was the only person to know the final identity of each sample.  So confident the organizers were in the anonymity and integrity of this double-identification system that they took the very unusual step of showing us the samples in the backroom.

The most fascinating about this competition, however was how Vinitaly innovated with the use of Ipads for judges to enter their scores.  The technology injected an extra layer of confidentiality, integrity, and precision to the proceedings.  After each flight of wine, the results were sent wirelessly to a mainframe computer for real-time calculation and verification by the lawyer in charge of oversight.  The Ipads made our job as judges extremely easy and efficient and because of the time saving and clarity of the App, all of our concentration was spent on wine evaluation instead of note taking and score calculation.

Beyond the ease of its use, however, the technology will now enable the organizers to send detailed reports with various tables and cross-analyses to each winery for them to truly understand the thinking of judges so that they can implement improvements to their wines and achieve true marks of quality.  With this innovation, this is where a wine competition can become truly meaningful to wineries, whether they are awarded medals or not.

Complementing the efficiency and innovation was the way the event was orchestrated, not unlike a military operation of high precision.  From the extremely well timed and managed schedule, to the use of highly experienced sommelier to pour the wines at each of our flights, there was a real sense of control and experience throughout the entire 4 days of the competition.  Italians have an acute sense of decorum for official proceedings and all details were finely tuned to give this competition a sense of grandeur and respectability.  From the well choreographed march of sommeliers between each flight to the pairing of wines in decanters for red wines aged over 5 years of age.  From the attention to the needs of each judge at the moment of welcoming on the 1st day to the fine dinners arranged for us at various wineries around Verona, the judges felt like a small family throughout and a feeling of conviviality genuinely transpired among us all until the last goodbyes late into the night of the last day of competition.

A world class experience in which I sincerely hope to participate again in the future.