The Berliner Wein Trophy – or BWT for short – is an international wine competition that takes place twice a year, with a winter and a summer edition. I have taken part as juror twice this year.
The competition, which is organised by the German Wein & Markt publication, takes place under the auspices of the Office International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), and therefore follows the tasting guidelines and uses the tasting schedule developed by them. As such, wines are tasted blind, and scored on a 100-point scale. Wein & Markt have determined that wines scoring between 82 and 84.9 points are awarded silver, wines scoring between 85 and 91.9 are awarded gold, and wines scoring 92 and above are awarded great gold, however, a maximum of 30% of the wines can be awarded a medal. Much more info, and lists of medal winners etc., can be found at http://www.berliner-wein-trophy.de.
Believe me, wine tasting in this manner is a serious and demanding task, being rather repetitive and requiring focus and a willingness to look at wines from an unbiased point of view, without regard to whether a particular wine hits the spot in personal taste terms. For someone such as myself, who writes about wine for the passion of it, this obviously does not necessarily provide the best writing material, but the wide variety does maintain a certain updated tasting edge that can otherwise quickly be blunted by just tasting those wines that fall within my particular areas of interest.
As a simple illustration of how heterogeneous and varied such a tasting can be, just for the individual juror, see this list of grape varieties that I tasted in the four days of the summer edition (more or less in chronological order):
• Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris/Grauer Burgunder)
• Trebbiano Abruzzese
• Trebbiano Toscano
• Sauvignon Blanc
• Vernaccia di San Gimignano
• Edelvernatsch (Schiava Gentile)
• (Blauer) Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
• Cabernet Dorsa
• Cabernet Sauvignon
• Cabernet Cubin
• Cabernet Mitos
• Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc)
• Shiraz (Syrah)
• Mataro (Mourvèdre)
• Petit Verdot
• Cabernet Franc
• Primitivo (Zinfandel)
• Albariño (Alvarinho)
• Fernão Pires
• Blauer Silvaner
• Souvignier Gris
• Frühburgunder (Pinot Prècoce)
• Nero d’Avola
• Pinot Meunier
• Palomino Fino
• Pedro Ximenez
Several of these grape varieties were firsts for me. I really love being exposed to new varieties and new ways of doing things, so this aspect of wine competitions is one that I find very worthwhile.
The BWT 2013 summer edition took place in sweltering conditions, with Berlin experiencing almost-unprecedented daytime temperatures of up to 37 degrees Celsius. Luckily, the tasting rooms were air conditioned, so no adverse effect on the tastings. It did make for lovely, balmy evenings, and in particular a river cruise one evening along the Spree river to the Müggelsee and back was a fantastic experience. The sights along the river were varied and fantastic, with Berlin showing a gentle, heterogeneous and non-German-stereotypical side of itself that was warm and welcoming. As a consequence, everyone aboard had a great time, and the ambience was relaxed, warm and gently excited. A great way to see Berlin.
In wine terms there is not much to report, since the wines were tasted blind, but a few scattered impressions follow:
• The Germans are great winemakers. Even with what I sometimes perceived as weak or dilute grape material, they generally made clean, fresh and highly drinkable wines.
• Vinho Verde from Portugal is coming along very nicely, and not just with alvarinho
• Did I see a tendency for the Spanish to make tempranillos that had less of a jammy character, less wood and more succulence and sapidity? I certainly hope that this perception was not just a fluke.
• There is a tendency in these wine competitions that the greatest wines from the various areas do not enter. There are probably several reasons for that, one of them being that if those wines were not to garner the highest praise, they would stand to lose.
• Despite this perceived “supermarket grade”, we had a fantastic flight of 15 Southern Italian wines, 2 on the basis of nero d’Avola and 13 100% primitivos, out of which I would have awarded 6 silver, 4 gold and 1 great gold. The primitivos, in particular, were in great form, showing that even for these grades, the raw materials available are fantastic, and the standard of winemaking has improved explosively.
I would want to thank Wein & Markt’s Klaus Herrmann in particular. He originally invited me the first time, and he is a main force behind the successful organisation of the BWT events. You can count on me to return, Klaus, if you want me back:-)