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What Do Wine Awards Mean?


What Do Wine Awards Really Mean?

When you are shopping for wine, you’re likely to see boasts of awards won, printed on the labels and posted on the shelves. How much does this really mean? Is a wine that has won a medal in some competition or has been rated with a high score from a critic really better than the wine next to it on the shelf? The truth is, the wine business is fiercely competitive, and awards offer validation and allow wine producers to attract the attention of consumers. The hope is that a win will put their product on the map and boost sales, but are some ratings more impactful than others? Let’s take a closer look at wine awards to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of these competitions and critiques.

What Is the Value of a Medal?

Wine competitions are beneficial to wine producers, because they provide the opportunity to have the wines assessed by judges who are experts in their fields. Professional feedback is a boon, because wine producers can use this constructive criticism to improve their wines. Of course, the best case scenario for a winemaker is a win for a wine, and a medal or award can help sell bottles. Especially for little-known or unknown winemakers, winning awards can help increase their credibility and help them claim a stake in the wine market. These medals are valuable to consumers, too, informing them of the quality of different wines.

What Are the Methods of Wine Awards

Some wine competitions award medals, some award ratings, and some have a sweepstakes round. One thing they don’t do is rank wines against each other. Each wine is judged based on its own merits, and judges consider things like color, clarity, aroma, bouquet, taste, aftertaste, and overall quality before reaching a decision together. Panels of judges typically have odd numbers of judges, so that decisions on wine ratings are easier to reach with a simple majority.

Types of Wins

While wines are rated based on their own merits, the scores are ranked for the purpose of awarding medals. There are gold, silver, and bronze medals in each category, as well as best-in-class awards. The sweepstakes is the part of the competition in which the best-in-class winners are tasted. In this round, they are judged against each other, and choosing the best is difficult, because they are all gold medal winners! To be chosen the best out of a group of the best is, of course, a high honor.

Wine Competitions

While wine competitions vary, they follow a similar method of competition. Panels of judges assemble, stocked with water, sparkling water, dump buckets and bread, and begin to taste a variety of wines, typically in flights of about 10 at a time. Depending on the size of the competition, the number of wines tasted will vary. Discussion can get heated, but it’s generally friendly, and the judges are very serious about the task at hand. Wines are rated based on different criteria, and collaboration between judges is encouraged. Some competitions provide medals, while others simply give scores. And while wine critics also score wines, wine competitions are generally considered more definitive as they involve blind tasting, but critics scoring wine  know which wines they are tasting

Benefits of Competitions

Competitions are not just beneficial to the winners, but also to the winemakers whose products receive lower ratings. The opportunity to have a wine analysed by experts gives wine producers the opportunity to improve their products and come back stronger the next year. For the winners of highly-regarded competitions, those high scores provide a significant boost to reputation and credibility.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wine Awards

Participating in wine competitions provides winemakers with the opportunity to have their products assessed, and winning awards increases their credibility. However, wine awards are not without their disadvantages. First, the costs associated with registration can be prohibitive, particularly for small, boutique vineyards, and especially when submitting several wines at a time. Then, too, the organisers of the competitions earn their income by charging winners to obtain the diploma or medal. Another issue is the variation between competitions and judging standards, and the inequality in terms of the reputation and credibility of judges. It is not uncommon for a wine to win a medal in one competition and not in another, and medals from some competitions carry more weight than awards from other competitions. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the consumer to self-educate on the reputation and integrity of different competitions, looking for wines with medals from well-established and respected competitions. Additionally, when buying a wine, it’s wise to learn about more than just the awards it has won, paying attention to the vineyard, the history, and the overall reputation, rather than just focusing on medals.

Award Winning Wines at Aurora Cellars

Aurora Cellars is proud to hold awards from various competitions. For instance, for three years in a row, Aurora Cellars won top honors at the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, a competition that includes wines from 25 states. The Jefferson Cup Award was given to Aurora Cellars for its non-vintage Brut Rosé, 2021 Grüner Veltliner, and 2018 Medium Sweet Riesling. In 2023, though, Aurora Cellars rose even higher, bringing home multiple gold medals from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition of North American wines. For the Leora sparkling wine and the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, Aurora was awarded Double Gold medals, meaning the judges’ decision to award a gold was unanimous. Aurora’s 2018 Blaufränkisch won a gold medal. To earn these awards in a competition involving 5,500 wines is a remarkable accomplishment!

Visit Aurora Cellars to Try Our Award Winning Wines

If you’re interested in tasting award winning wines from a boutique winery, you owe it to yourself to check out Aurora Cellars. Sibling-owned-and-operated, Aurora Cellars is on a unique and exciting property in the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula, where compact clay soil and rolling hills provide the perfect place to grow and produce world-class wines in a spectacular setting. While relaxing in the ambience of our gorgeous vineyard and the old world charm of our tasting room, you can enjoy a premier wine tasting experience, whether you prefer a flight of wines or wine by the glass. We offer an assortment of award-winning sparkling wines, white wine, rose wine, and red wine, and for those whose palate leans away from wine, we offer Michigan-grown heirloom apple cider. Whether you want to come for a wine tasting tour or you’re interested in the vineyard as an outstanding venue for a wedding, party, or corporate event, Aurora Cellars is the place to be.  Contact us through our website for general information or reach out for availability and pricing.