Bringing the Wine World Together
Concours Mondial de Bruxelles provides an excellent learning opportunity—and a whole lot of fun
Last week, more than 350 wine professionals descended on Valladolid for the 22nd installment of the global traveling wine competition Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, and what a whirlwind it was.
For the second time, I was fortunate and honored to serve as one of the hundreds of judges tasked with rating more than 9,000 wines--No small feat for any group.
But there’s more to the competition than just the assessment of wines—it’s an incredible opportunity to discover new wines, new people and new ways of thinking.
We tend to think of wine in our own, insular way—I know I'm guilty of relating everything back to the U.S. market or consumer. But for four days, I'm surrounded by professionals from all corners of the world: from Spain to China, South Africa to Russia and every country in between. Each representative brings a new perspective on trends, tastes or purchasing habits and it’s endlessly fascinating to hear their stories.
What may end up working for one group won't work for another, and that can mean everything from winemaking to marketing styles and trellising systems to the prevalence and meaning of scores. For the most part, the judges here are somms, retailers, writers and marketers, though I did meet some winemakers there as well. The diversity of the judges is one of the many reasons I love coming back. Sure, I could easily find 320+ wine experts here in the States--all I have to do is attend the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium each January--though, for the most part, we all have the same wine background and exposure.
Exposure is something I've spent a great deal of time thinking about lately. Without it, I fear the growth in my knowledge of wine would come to a screeching halt. Without it, any number of wineries would not be here today. This is the beauty of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. the amount of publicity and promotion the awards generate is staggering, and could make a difference to a winery looking to make a name for itself--especially if exports make up a hefty amount of sales. By earning a silver, gold or grand gold medal, a wine is in essence validated. These seals of approval are recognized around the world and equated with the highest levels of quality, awarded by well-vetted and accomplished jurors.
On a personal level, I discovered that my wine knowledge is simultaneously larger and much, much smaller than I know. I'm learning and retaining a great deal of information about wine--what would have scared me nearly five years ago when I started this process is now routine. But in those years, I've been humbled and know that there is still far more to learn about winemaking, grape growing, business and more, and that will always be the case. Until I'm exposed to the greater wine world, with its varied opinions, unique varietals and customs and trends, I'll never even begin to comprehend it.
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The city of Valladolid did a phenomenal job of hosting, and no one tried harder than its mayor, Oscar Puente. His very obvious love for his city showed through and the enthusiasm spilled over to all of us. Between the pre-arranged meet and greets, impromptu visits and subtle gestures, anyone could tell that he was genuinely excited to see each and everyone of us there. In near-perfect English (a by-product of spending a year of university in Missouri....) he communicated the best of Valladolid, a passion for Real Madrid, and an honest interest in learning about each judge. (If you ever do make a visit out to San Francisco or Sonoma, Mr. Puente, I'd be happy to prove California vineyards can produce Spanish varietals on par with Ribera del Duero--and more!)
The next edition of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles will take place in Beijing. Here's hoping for a return for CMB 2018!