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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v03n04)
The Wine Scene - by Jill A. Ditmire
posted: Feb. 24, 2006

Wine Scene header

Oenology Olympics
My fingernails are starting to turn blue and my nose threatens to run. I pull the white lab coat a bit closer to my body. I stick my nose in the glass and inhale. Then take a sip. The wine swishes around my tongue and mouth. Then I spit into a plastic cup.
I repeat this process 150 times in one day. Then come back and do it again the next day. And the next.
Why? It's Indy International.
The Indy International Wine Competition is the 3rd largest in the United States. It brings in nearly 4000 wines from around the world (17 countries) to be judged. Judges come from all over the world, too. And why not? Where else can you taste a Grand Cru Burgundy and an amateur Rhubarb wine in one day?
Okay, maybe at your Uncle Vic's.
But while Indy judges are treated like royalty it's still serious business. And when one judge thought his experience allowed him to swallow and not spit on day one, he was NOT asked back for day two.
It all takes place in the cavernous Blue Ribbon pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds where the room is kept cold to keep both wines and judges crisp and fresh.
The competition started in 1973 as a way to boost the young, yet productive, Indiana wine industry. If you offer medals, they will come. And they did especially when Dr. Richard Vine, PhD (yes that is REALLY his name) of the Indiana Wine Grape council took over in 1992 and made it an international competition.
The prestige of Indy continues to bring in the best of the best from both commercial and amateur winemakers to compete for bronze, silver and gold medals. The professional competition includes honors for "Best of Show", " Best Red", "Best White", "Best Dessert" and "Best Sparkling".
The "non-commercial" competition - the PC way to describe the amateur event - is the 2nd largest in the country. The record number of non commercial entries combined with the continuing growth of commercial entries made Dr. Vine and Purdue enologist Ellie Butz ( the woman who puts it all together and makes it all work because, yes, behind every great man there is a great woman ) decided to combine the judging.
So how does it work and why should you care?
Sixteen panels of five judges comprised of wine journalists, wine educators, wine marketers and knowledgeable wine consumers don a lab coat at 8 am and sniff, swirl, sip and spit "flights" (10-12 glasses of a particular varietal like Chardonnay or Seyval Blanc). After each flight judges vote to give the wine bronze, silver, gold or no medal. Wines that get 5 gold medals go to the "best of the best", or Concordance Gold, round where the best red, white, sparkling and best of show wines are determined.
Preliminary rounds are on Thursday and Friday, and the Concordance Gold round is held Saturday. All are open to the public to watch and essentially the competition is to the consumer's benefit.
"Gold means SOLD", says Dr. Vine, which is why this and other wine competitions are not only important to producers but great for consumers. It's five independent but trained palates selecting wines that are truly tasty and worth the price. Its not just ONE wine writer giving a wine a "score", as is done in many wine magazines.
" We have a great cross-section of wines from all over the country and the world and Indiana which means more choices, " says Competition Coordinator Ellie Butz. In addition to managing all the wines, judges and outside events she also oversees the "Pit Cru": 70 wine lovers who volunteer their time for the four-day event doing everything from opening bottles to washing glasses - several thousand an hour. "These folks are the heart and soul of the competition, and without them we would be lost," says Butz. The result of the hard work of the volunteers is to bring you, the consumer, the best tasting, best value wines from around the world.
For more information on Indy International visit or 800 832 WINE.

Each year Clarissa Elgarten publishes a user friendly guide to American Gold Medal Wines. Find it at or 888 484 AGMW

The Broad of Ripple Recommends:
Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay - $16 - This rich, lush white wine has garnered a number of Gold and Best of Class medals at wine competitions across the US for good reason. This multi layered and balanced dry white offers enticing aromas and flavors of pear, lemon cream, and soft butterscotch. Rich flavors for rich dishes such as pasta alfredo, lobster, scallops, chicken cordon bleu.
Wente Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - $10 - Fresh, crisp, soft aromas and flavors of melon, herbs and minerals. Try it with Thai or Indian cuisines.
Murrieta's Well "Zarzuela", Livermore Valley, California - Delicious blend of Spanish grapes grown on the Wente property and named after the 1850's bandit who used to stop at the artesian well in the vineyards en route to Mexico. Rich, full, balanced dry red wine with aromas and flavors of blackberries, cranberries, and black pepper. Fabulous food wine for grilled beef whether it's burgers, steak, brisket, grilled tuna, or salmon - even bean and cheese burrito's. Versatile and very tasty!!

Jill A. Ditmire is an Omnimedia wine specialist, AWS certified wine judge, freelance broadcast journalist and 20+ year home owner in the Warfleigh neighborhood of Broad Ripple. Send your questions and comments to Jill at
Also on INSTAGRAM @jaditmire
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