‘Twas a Monday in October when a woman who was still recovering from her (cough)th birthday party two nights before, did approach a table laden with 30 wines.
What craziness is this?
I hear you cry.
Get this woman an intervention. Or Graham from Jeremy Kyle. Or…just something.
But you see it was ok. This was all in the name of the People’s Choice Wine Awards, I had been given the prestigious honour of being a Round 1 judge, and I (mostly) gracefully spat each and every single one. Ok there were two I swallowed – one by mistake, and one champagne very much on purpose.
Were they all horrid then?
Oh you, you…imaginary person, you.
No, you see myself and my fellow tasters were doing this properly, there was a lot of contenders in the room and we all wanted to live to see Christmas.
In its second year, the People’s Choice Wine Awards is unique in that it’s the only wine awards that are dedicated to, and judged, by wine consumers. And the whole process takes part in our lovely city of Manchester.
I consume wine. Therefore I am.
This first round is a blind judging test where all tasting measures are poured from a covered bottle and so judges literally rely on their senses to select their favourites and mark them accordingly.
The full list of categories can be found here on the People’s Choice Wine Awards website but the ones I was involved with included Girls Night In, Out of the Ordinary, War of the Roses and Sweets for my Sweet.
I was admittedly out of my comfort zone. My preference is for sparkling and reds. Here was a plethora of whites, roses and dessert wines waiting for me to sniff, swirl and spit.
That evening I entered territory less visited and, reader, it was good for me to push my own boundaries. Now I know we’re not talking sky dives, organ donation or Everest, but we’re all creatures of habit and it’s good to have those challenged.
(Plus wine is really massively important, k?)
Now I’ll never really know which my favourites were from that evening, but I hope the finalists and indeed the winners included some of those I marked highly.
Because although wines we chose in Round 1 went through to the next judging round which brings in a little more official ‘expertise’, a little wine birdy told me that there is an extremely high correlation between the wine preferences from the ‘on the ground’ consumers and the ‘expert’ consumers.
My theory is that the only difference is that some of us may not know exactly why we like a wine, just that we do.
Oh how we do.
And so fast forward nearly 5 months and the shortlists have been further shortened and the finalists chosen. And my day’s leave approved as I schedule in a hangover for post-Awards Tuesday.
But a hangover produced from the best as chosen by The People.
And so on an unseasonably warm Monday in February (i.e. last night) – I mean I had a coat on but had I not, I wouldn’t have been too freezing – the great and the good gathered at The Comedy Store at Deansgate Locks, to find out just who would take away the coveted title from their categories.
The scene that met us as we entered the ‘Store was one of wine lover paradise.
For lined up on the bar was every finalist wine, each proudly wearing their nominated category on a little tag round their necks.
And these bottles were uncorked, unscrewed, popped, erm punctured and twisted (there’s a ‘bag in a box’ category). And there was a cacophony of empty glasses.
And there was this sign:
(No YOUR pic is blurred).
Anyway it basically said to have some.
And we did.
And it was fine. Not as in
Yeah, it’s ok
At this point, I must declare my favourite. Wine is not like children. You can pick and choose. But admittedly whilst not trying every single wine on offer (I’ve only take one day’s annual leave for recovery – and my spitting days are over), a favourite from my Fizz Festival going (also run by the fabulous Cracking Wine ) was up for an award and waving at me from the bar.
Honorary Manc! It’s me! You love me and buy me and love me and things!
Hello lovely Lyme Bay Winery and your sparkling rose (as nominated in the Fabulous Fizz: Best Sparkling Wine UK category.
However, my love affair for Lyme Bay aside, there was a whole host of exemplary wines available last night and many that may have never caught your attention before. Which is why I urge you to
- Apply to be a Round 1 judge next year; and
- Attend the Awards night.
Speaking of which, Fizz in hand, we all entered the theatre at the ‘Store and took our seats, all sharing two thoughts…
At what point shall we take the Ellen-esque awards crowd selfie to break the internet…
What’s the etiquette on drinking more wine during this ‘bit’.
For those wondering, leave and fill up your glass when the mood takes you.
Although, timing is key. I’m looking at you – winner who was absent when their name was called.
And you – lovely lady who we all applauded as you rose from your seat as the category winner was announced, only for you to carry on walking past the stage and through the exit.
You daft articles.
Hosted by local wine heroes Reserve’s own Kate Goodman and TV presenter Amelia Singer from The Wine Show, it was great to see my experience through right to the end, as the fabulous winners took to the stage to receive both their titles and their very own Tony Husband specially commissioned artwork.
The full list of people winning at wine can be found here.
I don’t profess to be an expert but I know what I like, I’ve learned how to realise what I like (tasting techniques) and even why it might be that I like it. And this is the message that the People’s Choice Wine Awards is sending.
Wherever you sit on the scale, wine consumers are wine consumers are wine consumers. We all share a passion for wine and our preferences all hold equal validity.
And so as I hang up my frock (I didn’t stumble in and leave it scrunched up on the floor – you stumbled in and left it scrunched up on the floor) and revisit the list of winners, I make it my vow to continue on my wine-drinking ‘journey’ and try every last lovely one of them.
Get involved at https://peopleschoicewineawards.com/