Diners Club have been getting energetic about their wine interests. Following their purchase of Platter’s guide last year, they are now (and I don’t think there’s any connection) re-examining the venerable Winemaker of the Year Award – it’s been running about as long as I have (even my aunt was there to raise her shaggy eyebrow when Walter Finlayson won the first one in 1980 – with a zinfandel).
There have been a few shaky moments for the Award in recent years – the most egregious when a winemaker colleague snitched on Duncan Savage for winning without having the required number of bottles in stock – and perhaps that’s part of the reason for thinking about change. Anyway, I’m told that a select group of wine-critics and of former winners recently underwent some (well-paid, by journalistic standards at least) grilling by a market research company intent on ferreting out perceptions and opinions.
The possible significant change would be that no longer will the award be made for a specified category. It was dessert wine last year, but I’m damned if I can find out, even with googling what was scheduled for 2013. Perhaps they’re already intent on changing things so that a winemaker can enter any style of wine at all. Though how they’ll make a judgement between a cabernet and a riesling will no doubt be yet another of the mysteries of wine competitions. And it could mean a lot of wines to sniff, swirl and misunderstand.
It’s by no means certain that the new format will resolve the ever-more-present problem of who actually is the “winemaker” in, especially, big wineries. No, not really a problem, I suppose – the “cellarmaster” is there to reap the glory, whoever actually made the wine. And the winning speech will no doubt continue to forgo the fashionable declaration that “wine is made in the vineyard rather than the cellar”. I daresay it would be a little too radical for Diners Club to scrap the whole idea and start a Viticulturist of the Year award….
Rendering it all a little mysterious, however, is a report that Jane Ledger, project manager for all Diners Club’s wine-related connections, resigned a week or so back.