The IWC has a tiered judging system. Most of these judges have been with us for many years and have moved up tiers. We act based on the peer recommendations we receive from the panel; either promoting, demoting or de-listing judges depending on their performance at the IWC.
We do not confine our judges to one area, region or style.
We expect our judges to have a global knowledge of wines and styles, and to judge them accordingly. At the IWC we believe in keeping the judges’ palate fresh and the day interesting. A typical day will start off with a flight of sparkling wines, then a flight of reds, then whites, back to reds and so on. The day will usually finish with sweet or fortified wines.
Tasting panels are usually made up of a Panel Chairman, Senior Judge, 2 Judges and an Associate judge. All communication is in English and except for UK based judges, we separate judges from the same countries to avoid country specific bias.
The judges' tier system:
The Co-Chairs are there as a safety net so that wines aren't misjudged. In round one they taste all wines that have been awarded a commended or not awarded at all. This is to ensure the decision is correct, and if required, to give them a second chance in round 2. In round 2 they re-taste everything for consistency. The Co-Chairs scores are usually in accord with the panel. However, if they think the panel's decision is 'harsh' or 'over awarded' they can adjust the score up or down. To alter the score, they will need to get another Co-Chair to agree with their decision before any change is made.
IWC Panel Chairs
Our Panel Chairs are our most experienced judges. They lead their panels based on our judging process. They have excellent tasting ability across all varietals and styles. They must be great communicators, diplomats and guides. They must have the ability to lead their panels but also to assist less experienced judges with the more unusual wines and styles. To ensure consistency in the judging process they will judge for a minimum of a week. There are around 30 Panel Chairs on our list, usually the IWC runs 25 panels depending on the volume of wines. They are expected to taste 90 wines per day in round 1. In round 2 they taste around 60 wines per day. Panel Chair's must give their scores last, so as not to influence the scores of other panellists.
IWC Senior Judge
A Senior Judge is a very experienced judge. They support the Panel Chair. They will have judged with the IWC for fseveral years, so they fully understand the processes. They have an excellent palate and a thorough knowledge of the global wine sector. Senior Judges tend to do fewer days. There are around 100 Senior Judges. Most Senior Judges judge for 3 days.
A Judge generally has less experience judging at the IWC than the Senior Judges. They know global wine styles and can comment authoritatively in discussion. Most of the IWC judges are at this level.
IWC Associate Judge
All judges start off as an Associate Judge, except for MW's who can start at Senior Judge levels. Associate judges vary in ability and will be relatively new to the IWC, so will need to familiarise themselves with the judging process. We expect our Associate judges to be promoted within 3 years. If not, they may be asked to leave and gain more experience before coming back to judge at the IWC again. Associates can taste for a maximum of two days.
Judging the judges
The IWC does not take into consideration reputations of judges either given by themselves or others. They are marked on their performance as judged by their peers. As an Associate, if two panel chairs report a good performance and high scores based on their assessment, they will be promoted to Judge. As a Judge this will also be the same process to be promoted to Senior Judges. Senior Judges will be promoted to Panel Chair based on their abilities and their availability to taste for a full week. Panel Chairs can be promoted to Co-chair.
The Panel Chairs are judged based on their performance, they will receive feedback if they are over critical or over generous. If the panels feel that their Panel Chair is too overbearing or dominant that information is also fed back to us.
To apply to become an International Wine Challenge judge click here