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Wine medals, do consumers care?

As a member of the “Wine Media” – I hear about medals won by wine all the time – in fact, I have been to a number of events where the wines were judged and awarded medals. My questions for consumers are:

– Does anyone in the general wine-drinking public care about these medals – most of which are from competitions many have never even heard of?
– When was the last time you purchased a wine simply based off of the medals it won in a competition?
– If you did make that kind of purchase, did you find your experience of the wine to collaborate with the medal(s) it earned i.e., gold. silver or bronze etc?

Example, you go into a winery tasting room here in Washington State and you’ll see notes about the wine or hear from the tasting room staff, things like: “This won a double-gold at the Tri-State Fair Wine Competition”. Call me a little naive here (really, go ahead, I promise I’ve been called worse) but how many of your typical “wine consumers” here in Washington State have either heard about or even care about that competition?

While I have my  issues with the 100-point rating system, at least it’s an industry-accepted standard and does provide a quantitative benchmark for wines. However, this medal thing – to me – is a bit out of control. Did you know that there is normally a per-bottle fee that each winery has to pay to submit each wine for judging and that they have to submit those bottles on their dime? Wineries around the world, literally spend millions of dollars each year on these competitions and to what avail? 

It would seem to me that the only competitions that would carry any real measurable merit on a regional or national level would be those conducted by magazines/web sites which have a large enough readership to even matter. A good example would be Sunset Magazine which has a combined print/web readership over 800,000 subscribers and covers many states across the west. A far cry from local state fairs or small competitions.

I don’t have an issue with any wine-related show/exhibition charging what they need to charge to cover their costs, however, if it doesn’t help the winery sell more wine then what good is accomplished here?

The intent of this post is to spur discussion between end-users and wineries – I’d love to read first-hand experiences from wineries of how some of these competitions have or haven’t impacted business and to hear from consumers on their thoughts of it. Please comment below and thank you!


  • winebanter

    I reckon an ‘ordinary’ consumer will choose between 2 x bottles of say 2buck chuck on the shelf (all things being equal)- by whichever has a medal sticker on it ! Good ole’ marketing rules eh …

  • JJ Williams

    A lot of the benefit of smaller competitions surrounds contacts on the trade side of the equation. We hardly, if at all, use “awards” to sell wine to end consumers, and in that regard I agree with the sentiment that the benefit is dubious. However, we’ve landed a bunch of large on and off premise fans after having tried an “award-winner” at the accompanying reception or show, a la Seattle Wine Awards or Tri Cities Wine Awards. 

  • Heidi W. Skrzypek

    Hi – I’m with JJ. The competition “win” is less about the medal and more about the members of on- and off-premise trade tasting the wine! Unless it is a big competition or carries regional clout, such wins rarely make it to a shelf talker a marketing spin.

  • ARM

    ARM  I own a winery. We sell out of wine that has won medals. People in the area know that most of these contests are blind tastings. It is fair to all. We stand a chance as a small winery of getting better scores or medals in these events. We have little chance in the wine tasting magazines. They seem to be add driven. More money on adds better scores. I have seen this for the last 15 years. 

  • Bill

    My thoughts on a small winery winning medals and scoring points is that the winery may enjoy a short-term spike in sales, but the consistent flow of customers and revenue is earned through regular regional marketing, customer WOM and well trained personable tasting room staff.

  • Winewalkabout

    We take the approach of ‘we’ll be the judge of that’. Unless medals are from a know event they mean nothing.