The path of an entry
Our operational philosophy is "the right bottle at the right place at the right time." It is applied from the moment a wine entry arrives at our temperature-controlled warehouse door.
1. Our receiving team records the shipment in a written log before the box is opened. Then the shipment is checked for entries in our database. If the entry exists in our database, the shipment is logged into our electronic log. If not, we contact the shipper to determine if the shipment was correctly delivered and the status of their entries.
2. The wines are unpacked as a group in our check-in verification area. Each bottle or container of each entry is compared to make sure they are the same wine and a printout of the entry form is placed with the entries.
3. The entry bottle label is photographed (front and back) and a digital image is added to the online entry record in our database. This photo serves several purposes: it is a record of the wine we actually received, and it allows the entry form data to be verified by several checkers in off-site locations without having to handle the wine.
4. Our staff spends hours scrutinizing the online entry form data with the data on the wine label. We want to ensure that the online data exactly matches the wine shipped and that it is judged in the correct category. Sometimes the only difference between two wine entries from the same winery is a word like "reserve" or "unoaked," yet the difference in the wines is profound. Or an entrant may have entered a vintage of 2004 on the online entry form but the wine we received is vintage 2005. The integrity of each entry is tracked through several steps and if any discrepancies are found the entrant is contacted and any issues resolved.
5. When we have determined that the entry information in our database matches the entry's label, we tag each bottle with the randomly generated entry ID assigned by the database. This entry ID is how the wine is identified throughout the competition. We then move the entry to the appropriate category shelving area until we are ready to pack the entries by category in preparation for the move to the Irving Convention Center.
6. All of the wines are transported to the Irving Convention Center prior to the beginning of judging. Fifty back room volunteers and staff are present to receive the wines. Some of the volunteers have been working at the competition for as many as 20 years. We have staff for the office, help desk, glass station, floaters and three staffers for each panel of judges. On each panel team, one volunteer is the panel moderator and the others work in the backroom to setup flights of wines for the judges.
7. The packed wines are moved to the appropriate panel tables, are unpacked and organized in wine tasting order based upon a report from our database. The database sorts all wines by panel, category and residual sugar. With this report in hand, the panel teams begin arranging wines by category in tasting order. Each list is scrutinized to make sure all the wines are in the correct place and that no wines are missing.
8. Once the wines are physically ordered on the tables, the panel teams individually check each wine label again with the data entered in the database. Discrepancies are again reported and updated in the database. Each panel team trades paperwork and tables to re-verify the database information a final time.
9. Thousands of Schott Zwiesel wine glasses are polished in preparation for the first day of judging. The glasses are organized on carts for each flight of judging. Numeric labels with each wine’s entry ID are printed for each glass for each wine and these labels are attached to each glass presented to the judges. Panel directors working with the judges use the entry ID for recording results of the judging process.
10. One bottle of each wine is opened for the judging. A small amount of the wine is poured off to remove any residue. One glass is poured for each of the four judges and is served in a flight of ten wines. A second bottle of wine may be opened at the judges' request based on corked wines or the desire to taste a new bottle of the same wine.
11. Any wines that medal are recorded in the database and notifications are sent to the entrants within two weeks of the judging.