The North Ballroom of the Memorial Union was filled with plenty of chatter and laughter on Wednesday as judges sat at tables covered with wine glasses as they were drinking, smelling and discussing wine.
Panels of judges in white coats, including wine-makers, distributors and individuals from restaurants, took part in the Indy International Wine Competition. The final taste-off begins at 5 p.m. today.
Each bottle is judged using a score sheet with criteria based upon the clarity, color, aroma, taste, aftertaste and overall quality of the wine, according to Katie Barnett, the Purdue Wine Grape Team’s marketing extension specialist.
About 2,000 bottles of wine were entered with 46 judges evaluating the wine. Judges spit out the wine after tasting to avoid overconsumption.
The competition includes a judge-in-training program, Barnett said, where newer winemakers or distributors can sit with the judges to evaluate the wine along with them.
Jennifer Norris from Blackhawk Winery in Sheridan, Indiana, is a judge-in-training, and she said she enjoys learning from the other judges.
“I did this again this last year also, so it’s a very good learning experience as I get more into wine,” she said.
Noah Herron from Urban Vines in Westfield, Indiana, was a judge-in-training the last two years and is an actual judge for this year’s competition.
Herron also said he enjoys learning from the other judges, as well as exposing his palette to new wines from different places.
The judges are not permitted to enter the room where the wine is held and prepared, to ensure the judging process is completely blind and the judges don’t know anything about the wine they are scoring.
Barnett said about 50 people, called the “pit cru,” volunteer their time to prepare the wine for the judges, replace the dirty wine glasses with clean ones and restock the judges’ water and food.
“They love it. We have members who — we were talking at lunch — who have been here 10 and 12 years, because they really, really enjoy the event,” Barnett said.
One pit cru member is Larry Leverenz, a former Purdue professor and amateur winemaker.
Leverez said he started making wine from kits. He has four bottles in this competition and has entered the past several years as well.
“It’s just it’s fun to do and see how they do,” Leverenz said. “You get feedback from the judges, and so it’s helped me improve quality.”
The competition will continue on Thursday, when the winners of the various awards will be announced.