More About the Best-of-Appellation Evaluation Program
The BOA assessments are done by panels of professional sensory evaluators moderated by the BOA Program Director and in-house oenologist, Clark Smith, and, whenever possible, assisted by a Regional Advocate Evaluator*.
*The Regional Advocate Evaluator must be an industry professional from the region with an intimate knowledge of the appellation, its history, terroir and production practices. The role of the Regional Advocate Evaluator is to bring that knowledge to the assessment process, in the interest of better informing the panel at large about the themes of character and place-identity as expressed in the wines being assessed.
1. The tastings are directed by the Moderator, and all wines are handled/poured by a professional service staff out of sight of the Evaluators.
2. Tasting is done blind in flight categories composed of wines of the same variety from the same appellation, or in cross-appellation groupings carefully designed by the Moderator to highlight the different characteristics of the respective appellations. The focus is on identifying distinct regional signatures, not competing the wines or appellations against each other. A regional signature is deemed to be a pattern of taste and character identifiable in the wine, and traceable to the terroir of the region and/or the locally applied technologies in viticulture and oenology…practical professional choices, if you will, about how to manage mother nature in a given region. In most appellations there are multiple signatures (often for the same variety), identifiable on a spectrum running from traditional, to dominant, to innovative. The BOA Evaluation Program is designed to isolate and equitably accommodate the full spectrum of wine character where appropriate.
3. Each wine submitted for evaluation in the BOA Program is accompanied by a detailed Product Information Form with information on terroir, viticultural and vinicultural variables.
4. Each tasting begins with a discussion of what is already known and/or expected in the development of the regional character and styles of wines from the subject appellation. The descriptive content of this preliminary discussion will be THE qualitative benchmark for the evaluation to follow, superceding personal taste preferences, which the Evaluators may or may not be bringing to the table. This preliminary discussion may be accompanied by tasting wines previously judged to typify the best, or developing, characteristics of the region/variety.
5. The Evaluators individually analyze all the wines in the flight, searching for the patterns of typicity, making notes, and assessing each wine objectively against the afore-mentioned, regionally-informed qualitative benchmark on four separate dimensions (color, nose, flavor, balance). Again, the focus is on the signature characteristics of the region itself, not in the individual taste preferences of the Evaluators. In the final analysis, it matters not whether the Evaluator even "likes" the style of the wine, but rather whether the wine effectively expresses the character of the region.
6. After individual assessment, the Moderator quickly polls the panel to determine which wines deserve further discussion in order to define and refine the character/style/quality profile(s) of that variety in the given appellation.
7. Discussion is concluded with an apportionment of the BEST-OF-APPELLATION™ Awards:
8. Notes from all the Evaluators are amalgamated and put into the database, and the award winning wines are advanced to the "Best-of-Appellation™" list for that variety and region.
Because the BOA process is purposely focused on defining regionality and patterns of commonality, certain wines may be of exceptional quality by standards other than the regional benchmark criteria, and thus be underrated in the focused BOA evaluation process. Such wines may be accommodated as follow:
An Evaluator may position him/herself as an advocate for an anomalous wine during the discussion and advance the premise that the wine deserves "Best-Of" recognition as either a quality example of the character/style of wines from the region in the past, or a potential beacon of where the region may be headed as it develops its identity for that variety in the future. If the other panelists concur, the wine will be medaled and the "Best-of-Appellation" Tasting Notes will indicate the nature of its variance.