It is a commonplace comment that "tasting wines is hard work, but somebody's got to do it." Well that is true, it is hard work. My experience at two wine judgings explains why.
Weekend before last (April 16-17) I participated in the Seattle Wine Awards, conducted by Christopher Chan (see my blog of April 19 for a report) where each fouresome tasted 150 wines on Saturday and 100 on Sunday. On March 7, I tasted about 100 wines at the Seattle Magazine Washington Wine Awards judging, conducted by Yashar Shayan.
The biggest challenge in tasting a hundred or more wines is that 70 to 80 percent of these wines will be tannic young reds. After tasting a couple of flights of ten to fifteen wines, tannin fatigue sets in, with the palate getting coated with mouth puckering dryness. The traditional method of combatting this is spipping water and eating saltine crackers. But it takes more than that when going through a hundred or more wines. At the Washington Wine Awards, cheese and salami (prepared by the South Seattle Community College's culinary students) were served. The fat of the cheese and charcuterie helps cut the tannins in the mouth. At the Seattle Wine Awards, I found beef jerky to be particularly helpful as the sweet-salty and savory qualities served as an antidote. A lunch break in between also helps give the palate a rest.
There are other challenges as well. Wine tasting requires a lot of concentration, to evaluate wines fairly. Checking arithmetic (usually on a modified 20 point system) is a necessity. Also one has to move along quickly. Wine judging is not a task for slowpokes.
But, in the end, there is much satisfaction in wine judging. It is fun and rewarding.