Being a Wine Judge

When I was first asked to interview a certified wine judge at the 2011 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition, the largest competition of its kind, I will admit that I felt a little intimidated, and it was my first time attending the event. Nevertheless, I donned an apron and sheepishly carried my first flight of wine toward the judging table. My panel of judges, all from the American Wine Society (AWS), Peter, Walt and Joe adjusted their seats, speaking softly to one another in what I could only imagine was eager anticipation of tasting amateur wines for many hours. I was originally supposed to follow one judge for the day, Joe Dautlick, but, once things got rolling, it became difficult not to ask the entire panel questions, especially since I was soon to find out that judges work as close-knit teams. I was impressed and relieved to note that judges genuinely seemed to want every entrant to win. They were not, in my experience, at all stuffy or aloof, as I had previously imagined. Rather, their overall goals leaned toward