Judge and be Judged!
Education Experience 3.5 Wine Courses

Judge and be Judged!

12-14 June 2017

Experience: 3.5/5

I enrolled for the Certificate in Wine Evaluation Short Course as I wanted to learn how to score and assess wine for quality. Run by the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, it gave me the opportunity to experience a different training provider to the Cape Wine Academy. Successful completion would give me a US Certificate in Wine Evaluation that would allow me to serve as a taster on panels of the South African Wine and Spirits Board and also the South African National Wine Competition Association (Young Wine Show and VERITAS).

The course (R2100 fee) was held at the University on 3 evenings (6.00pm to 8.30pm) from 12 to 14 June. I was joined by around 40 students who were mostly winemakers and students. I felt slightly apprehensive but excited at the start not knowing what to expect. Italian-born Valeria Panzeri was the Course Tutor and aided by a panel of 4 experienced tasters and wine evaluators. She is from the Faculty and a specialist in wine taint.

The first 2 evenings were practice tastings and the third eve was set aside for the exam. During the practice sessions, I had to score wines of different styles and cultivars – single variety as well as blends, dry to sweet – for quality. The standard 20-point scoring system was used. A wine could be rejected for any 1 of 25 faults, whether Clarity, Colour or Flavour and Taste.

The wines were efficiently presented in ‘flights’ each rated and then replaced by another flight. The vintage and style of each wine was given. I assessed 41 white wines on the first evening (sparkling, still, late harvest and jerepigo) and 37 red wines on the second (blanc de noir, rosé, muscadel, Cape tawny and vintage). Time passed quickly and there was not long to score and detect faults. Valeria and her panel consulted at the end of each flight and then announced their score and findings to the class.

I was taught the 20-point scoring system by the Cape Wine Academy and use it during my vineyard tastings. However, this was the first time I had a benchmark against which to compare my score. The Panel judged harsher than I have been and so I had to score 1 or 2 points downwards. I also learned to take note of the vintage, especially when considering whether to accept or reject for ageing characteristics. Two-thirds of the wines were rated at 14 or 15. There’s little between an appearance/nose/palate score of 3/5/6 and 3/6/6 or 3/5/7.

Certain wines, at random, were ‘spiked’ to simulate a particular wine fault or faults. The faults were really difficult to pick up. This was because I had no prior experience. I learned only about the theory of cork taint, microbial decay (‘Brett’), oxidation and sulphur smell during my Cape Wine Academy training. Here, there were over 20 more that included inter alia Insufficient Cultivar Character, Overaged Character, Rancid, Fault Acid Balance, Bitter, Tannic/Astringent and Thin/Watery. I asked Valeria how one learns to detect these faults. She said ‘by experience’. I would have liked, indeed expected given the fee, the Course to have included some training about key faults at the start. Tasting a flight of faulty wines, each described and discussed beforehand, would offer significant improvement to the Course. I wondered if I should have done the Cape Wine Academy Faulty Wine Course first (I shall do the next one on 30 August). I suspected too that many of my fellow winemaker students had this training already and perhaps there was no need to repeat.

However, I was really pleased to have picked up Mouldy Character (cork taint) in a 2015 Dry White included in the 2nd flight. I had not tasted before so this was doubly satisfying. The grounds for acceptance or rejection often appeared very narrow and particularly so for faults around Overaged Character and Oxidation. The Panel members did not always agree between themselves (there are always an odd number of persons on a Judging Panel) and so majority decision was taken. This could result in an individual wine either being rejected or scored a lowly 13 out of 20 I learned that Thin/Watery referred to the feel on the plate rather than the appearance (wines had water added to simulate the fault).

My ratings improved throughout the first and second day. By the end, I was mostly within a point of the Panel score but not always so. As ever, wine can humble. I matched the Panel for 6 out of 7 wines (a fault correctly identified) for the 2nd flight of reds. I matched just 1 from 7 for the next flight.

The exam brought all together in one evening. I had to assess in under 2 hours the quality of 52 wines, both whites and reds, in 9 flights. The score sheets were slightly modified and the number of potential faults reduced from 25 to 10: Cultivar, Sulphur Compounds, Volatile Acidity, Mouldy, Overmatured, Sulphur Dioxide, Foreign Wine, Style and Oxidation. We were told beforehand too that some wines were duplicated to see whether we scored the same. The pass mark is 50% and marks are awarded depending on how close (or not) the score awarded is to the Panel score, as well as whether a wine is rejected and for the correct reason. Results are not due until early August. I hope to pass but unsure how much my inexperience will tell.

To conclude, I am pleased to have attended the Course. I learned much from the tastings and all the more so as my knowledge start point was low. This of course is the reason I enrolled. It is not often that I say this but on this occasion I would have liked more theory teaching before the tasting evaluations (this is why I did not rate my Experience more than 3.5/5). Meanwhile, I await my result which shall likely be announced before I take the Faulty Wine Course with the Cape Wine Academy. I shall be writing about after and most interested in both!

You Might Also Like

Dave Goes Down Under and the Wines Go Up


Waterf-ord More Ord-inary Than Extra-ord-inary

Wine and Food Pairing – 10 Points ©

Late at Lateganskop

Wine can be so Humbling

Diploma Done and Dusted – But for the Final Result – I Passed!

What Is Over the Legal Limit? Some Surprising, Scary Thoughts for Tasting and Drinking

Old Oaks at La Bourgogne

Graham Beck MCCs Fizzled Out

Woody Wildekrans

Au Revoir France!

Bartinney Clings to the Mountain

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

Superb Views of Guardian Peak

Vrede en Lust Struggled to Reveal it’s Delight

Hope Lies High in the Valley

Dis-gorgeous at Weltevrede

Horsepower in the Vineyard

More Plaisir at de Merle Please!

Wheels Turn Full ‘Cycle’ at Meerendal

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Sip Sip Sip and Drip Drip Drip at Domaine des Dieux

Cheers to Lemon Squirt Acidity and Puppy Dog Breath!

Marching into France

A Cape Wine Master-class

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

A Quando-ary: When to Drink …?

Relaxing Rosendal

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Busy, Bubbly, Noisy Wonderfontein

Hope Brought to the Vineyard

Fish (and other foods) with Wanda!

A Lekker Jol at Wandsbeck

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Taking the Garage into the Classroom

Intimate, Tranquil and Refined

Cork and Talk with Dave

Wines from the Orchards at Le Pommier

Haven Rather than Heaven at La Bri

Pick n Taste Time at Stellenbosch

River Grandeur at Viljoensdrift

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

There’s No Gun Smoke Without Wine

Red, Red (Spanish) Wine

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Same but Different End to the Diploma Lectures

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Try as I Could I Did not Find Waterkloof Wines Dynamic

Hand at Work Handiwork at Boschrivier Wines

Noble Wines without the Rot

2018 Wacky Wine Ends at Le Roux & Fourie

From South Africa to a Whole New (and Old) World

Brut Force and Less Ignorance

Proudly Keeping it in the Family at Paul Cluver – or Not?

Around the (Old) World in 18 Hours – starting with the European Cuvée!

Becoming Ship-Shape at La Couronne

Com-fort-able Wines at Fort Simon

The Cut ‘n’ Paste Stellenbosch Wine Festival Comes to Cape Town

Heaven and Earth Create a Costly Pairing

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Scary Jan Harmsgat Delivers Elegant Wines

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Simple Spier

House Wine from the Wine Tram

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

Champagne and Brandies left Me Disappointed

Allez les Boks – Pas les Bleues!

The Italian Collection at the Vineyard

The Ladies in Red

Yanky Doodle Dave Didn’t Bring all the Wines

Style or Substance? Nitida left Me Wondering

The Vineyard Hotel a Classic Vehicle to Showcase L’Ormarins Wines

Little Did I Know What I Had Started – A New Passion

Of Female Rugby Players and Ballet Dancers! Let’s Continuously Study Very Seriously: Wines of the Loire and Northern Rhône

Decent Wines Rock from the Pulpit

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?


How to Taste Wine©


  1. Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] processes that make wine faulty. I had some pre-learning having completed (and passed) the Certificate in Wine Evaluation Short Course in June, also provided by the Viticulture and Oenology Department of Stellenbosch University. The […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *