Indy International- The Midwest’s Global Wine Competition
There are many quality wine competitions in the Midwest, but there’s only one with an international scope: The Indy International Wine Competition. For the 23rd consecutive year, the ballroom at the Purdue Memorial Union will be packed from July 30th to August 1st with wines from 40 states and 15 countries.
Size alone does not define a wine competition, but the Indy International is the largest wine competition between New York and California. With 2,300 entries, the Indy International is much larger than major wine competitions in the Pacific Northwest, Texas and Virginia. (The largest wine competition in the U.S. is the San Francisco Chronicle Competition which had over 5,800 entries last year. The Finger Lakes Wine Competition in New York gets about 3,700 entries.)
One of the Indy International’s most powerful benefits is the credibility and visibility the competition brings to Midwest Wine. According to Jeanette Merritt, marketing director for Indiana Wines, “Midwest wines are an important part of the Competition; we select at least one judge on each panel who is familiar with Midwest wines.”
In keeping with the trend at Midwest wine competitions, judges at the Indy International Competition come from all over the U.S. This year’s Competition includes judges from California like Dan Martin of E&J Gallo, Rhonda Wood of Wood Family Vineyards and Ann Nobel, the creator of the wine aroma wheel.
After tasting the best Midwestern wines, judges from other regions are often impressed (and intrigued) by the character of Midwestern varietals. During the 2012 competition, a judge from California remarked that he was more impressed with the red hybrid flight than the Merlot flight.
Having a broad array of wines and an emphasis on lesser known grapes is a point of pride for the Purdue University Wine Grape Team who run the Competition. Last year, there were seven White American category classes and seven Red American categories including Catawba and Norton/Cynthiana. French and American hybrids also share top billing with 15 hybrid categories including Vignoles and Frontenac. All these categories add up to a lot of ways for participating wineries to earn medals.
This year, the Indy International will award about 70 Best of Class medals, one for each wine category. (In comparison, the Finger Lakes Competition has only four ‘Best Wine’ medal winners; all other medals are bronze, silver and gold.) At Indy International, the Best of Class wines move on to the final judging table to determine Best of Show, Best White, Best Red, Best Dessert, Best Sparkling and Best Rose.
According to Jay Halverson of Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette, Iowa, “To me, this is the one Midwest competition where your best wines are likely to go head to head with the best wines of other wineries, both Midwest and international. Any award you earn here is satisfying.”
New for this year are trophies for best label and best packaging. “We wanted to recognize the importance of retail marketing,” Merritt said. “Much of a wine’s story is told by the bottle.”
As the largest U.S. wine competition run by a university, the Indy International is heavily dependent on volunteers. About 120 volunteers perform tasks that range from washing thousands of wine glasses to disposing of over 5,ooo wine bottles. The bottles and recycled and so is some of the wine.
According to Merritt, unused wine is used for research by Purdue students and faculty. For example, some of the leftover Traminette has been used to study the source of cork taint.
See Related Story: Purdue Wine Capital of Indiana
Homepage photo: Jeanette Merritt of Indiana Wine at the Indy International Wine Competition