How to taste 8,000 wines in three days: Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

concours mondial de bruxelles

20th Anniversary of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, 1994 – 2014.

It may not be as well known in Australia, but the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is Europe’s biggest travelling international wine show. Getting some bling on your bottle (i.e. a Gold or Silver medal) from the Concours Mondial is a sure-fire way to get more wine lovers wanting your wine.

This year was the 20th anniversary and 8,060 wines from 58 countries competed for glory on May 2, 3 and 4 in the European capital of Brussels. And I was lucky enough to be invited as one of just three Australian judges in the 310 strong international judging panel!

The thing that really makes this wine show stand out is that it is unashamedly consumer focused. According to the competition chairman, Baudouin Havaux; “The aim of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is to promote the culture and awareness of wine and to guide consumer choice. Consumers can be naturally reticent about selecting wines they are not familiar with – the competition’s task is therefore to help wine lovers broaden their culture and encourage them to discover new wines.” 

He’s being diplomatic when he says ‘reticent’. If you’ve walked into a wine store or gone online to try and buy wine, the experience can be completely overwhelming. Concours Mondial’s aim is to give you some bling to guide you. And that’s a pretty great idea.

8,000 wines in three days? They asked the right Aussie gal! Jane Thomson reporting for duty at the 20th Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

So how does it work? How can you possibly judge 8000 wines in three days?!?

First, they get 300+ judges from all corners of the globe in the same room and split us into panels of six members each – one of which is our ‘chief’ judge for our panel. Each panel has to taste and rate approximately 60 wines each day (a far more reasonable figure!), and all the wines are tasted blind. That is, the bottles are covered up so we have no knowledge of the variety, region or even the country it’s from.

Judges in action. Source: Concours Mondial de Bruxelles
Judges in action. Source: Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

The wines are then brought out to us by our gorgeously nervous sommeliers (hospitality students, thrown into the deep end for the day) and served one by one, first to the chief panel judge so he or she can determine whether the wine is okay for judging (e.g. it’s not corked) and then to each of the panel members. The judges scores are then collected and collated to get the overall results for each wine, and determine whether it is awarded a Silver, Gold or Grand Gold medal – or no medal at all.

So just what does this big wine show look like? Watch this awesome little video:

It was such a privilege to be part of this extraordinary international wine event. And from the huge number of entries it continues to receive each year, I predict it will be around in another 20 years to help guide everyday wine drinkers towards wines of quality in an increasingly crowded wine marketplace.

Interested to see who’s wine reigns supreme?

You can get the full results listing from the 2014 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles right here. 


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