Wine awards - real quality or hype?

We’ve done the research to guide you through the wine medal jungle.
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  • Updated:30 Sep 2008

01.Medals of distinction


In brief

  • A gold medal is better than a silver, from any show; a bronze indicates it’s of sound quality, but not much more.
  • Australia's wine show system has been criticised for having become too commercial, but shows are addressing these concerns.

Over the past two decades our wine industry has grown so much that we’re now one of the major exporters of quality wines. Grown, too, has the number of medals that adorn wine bottles on retailers’ shelves.

But are all these medals just a marketing ploy? Or are they a genuine indicator of a good quality wine? As is so often the case, the answers are not a simple yes or no. There are, however, some awards worth looking for and some issues to be aware of when choosing a wine you don’t know.

There’s certainly no shortage of wine shows — there are 62 in Australia alone plus many more overseas. There’s at least one major wine show in each state and nationally, and many more shows for local wines in our key wine-growing regions.

Other shows are open to specific varieties only, such as the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, or to wines from grapes grown in a particular region only, such as the inland or cool climate wine shows. It seems for every group of people who produce a certain type of wine, there’s an appropriate wine show to showcase their product, whether it’s made from an alternative variety or organically grown grape, by a small or boutique winemaker or an amateur.

For a complete overview of and links to all the relevant wine shows, check out the website of the Australian wine industry portal.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2008 but is still a useful guide today.

No medal?

Winning an award doesn’t usually increase a wine’s price, but it’ll certainly increase sales. For wines that sell for less than $25, a wine medal is an effective marketing tool that helps draw people’s attention to the wine on the bottleshop shelf.

People like medals, retailers told us, and they ask for them if a wine is advertised as a medal winner but doesn’t show the award on the bottle. In such a case, check with the retailer. You may be looking at stock from the same vintage that was bottled before the wine won the award. If in doubt, check with the show. It should have all award winners listed on its website.

But don’t be concerned if the wine you like boasts no medals. Not all winemakers agree with the wine show system and prefer the customer to judge their wines, at the cellar door, for example, or they simply mightn’t have had a sample ready at the time of entry into a show.



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