Governor’s Cup wine competition gets a makeover in 2012

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A high-profile wine expert that will serve as lead judge and a return to a single competition were among changes announced Monday by Gov. Bob McDonnell to the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. The idea behind the makeover?  Make the industry take Virginia wine more seriously by running one of the most stringent and thorough wine competitions in the country.

The revamped contest is a result of a partnership among the Virginia Wine Board (VWB), the Virginia Wineries Association (VWA) — which owns and manages the competition — and the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA). In late spring, the governor assigned the organizations to find ways to improve the contest.  “Virginia wines have been gaining acclaim here at home, around the nation, and in key markets around the world.  Given this, we need to make sure that we have a competition that recognizes and promotes the best that we have to offer,” said McDonnell, who has promoted Virginia wines during trade missions abroad.

As part of the revamping, the competition will again be a single event for all Virginia wines.  Recently the Governor’s Cup had been broken up into two competitions, one for red wines and one for white wines. The judging of both red and white wines will be divided into preliminary and final rounds to be held in January 2012.  The announcement of the Governor’s Cup award winner will be held on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 23 in conjunction with the Virginia Wine Expo, which runs February 24-26, 2012 in Richmond.

Any wine made from 100 percent Virginia fruit will be eligible for the competition. Ciders and fruit wines will have their own category and medals.  Entries must include an affidavit with a certification of 100 percent Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.

One of the most important aspects of the revised competition will be an educational component of the judging.  After the competition, regional forums for the winemakers will be held with the head judge.  Notes with the judges’ blind comments will be shared with individual winemakers, so that they will get direct feedback on how their wines were received.

The head judge for the competition will be Jay Youmans, one of only of 31 Masters of Wine in the U.S. Youmans, the owner and educational director of the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C, will recruit other judges from the professional wine buying and wine media community.  They will be compensated for a rigorous schedule of judging.

“The new format for the Virginia Governor’s Cup will make it one of the pre-eminent wine competitions in the U.S today,” Yomans said in a statement.  “It will become the benchmark with which all other wine shows will be measured, not simply because of the quality of the judges, or the rigorous selection process, but because of the critical feedback given to each participating winery.  The competition will serve notice to the industry that Virginia is serious about producing high quality wines.”
Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2011 with more than 462,000 cases sold. This volume marked a sales increase of more than 11 percent over the previous fiscal year. 

Virginia is now the nation’s fifth largest wine producer and seventh largest wine grape producer.  According to an economic impact study in 2005, the Virginia wine industry employs approximately 3,000 people and contributes almost $350 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis.  The study reflected the impact of 120 wineries; today, there are nearly 200 farm wineries in the state.  A new economic impact study is planned next year.


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