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Wine Competitions & Ratings in the U.S.A.

There is no secret: the road to the U.S. market can be very long and filled with obstacles, and it takes both a lot of time and planning to elaborate a successful strategy and find the right partners to implement it. Fortunately, you’re not alone and can find your way around these obstacles with the right tools in hand. 

Although both trade and consumers are constantly looking for something new worth discovering, the market is extremely crowded and it takes a lot for a product to get in front of them. Thankfully, there are many events and publications throughout the United States that provide wine producers with the opportunities to highlight their products and stand out from their competitors.

Whether in forms of ratings, reviews or medals, these distinctions allow producers to gain in legitimacy and visibility toward both trade and consumers, and they can use it as a leverage to set up the proper distribution network for their goals.

While there are many smaller-scale competitions and media outlets that offer similar opportunities to wine producers throughout the country, the following article aims at providing a clear overview of the most strategic ones, the ones every producer new to the US should know from the get go.

Wine Competitions & Ratings opportunities every wine producer should know:

1. New York International Wine Competition (Website): 

  • Where: New York
  • When: May 3rd, 2020
  • Entry Fee: $100 before April 19th / $120 before April 27th / $130 before May 3rd
  • Entry Deadline: April 24th, 2020
  • About (from event website): 

What sets us apart (…) is our TRADE ONLY blind judging panel. At our wine competition, the retail store buyer, sommelier, restaurant beverage director, hotelier, distributor and importer will be our judges. We feel that these judges, whose livelihood rely upon their skill set, truly know what the consumer wants, as they receive on a daily basis the feedback from the consumer of what is good and what will sell. We enjoy having strong relationships with US Domestic Wine Organizations and International Wine Organizations in creating specific shipping and discount programs for them.


Personal thoughts: The New York Wine Competition is probably one of the first ones I would pick if I were to submit my own wines to any US competition. Not only because well, this is New York, but because it’s a trade-focused event that provides a great level of visibility for winning producers and represents a strong asset when presenting wines to the US professionals, both in NY and across the states.


New York City International Wine Competition Medals


2. San Francisco International Wine Competition (Website): 

  • Where: San Francisco
  • When: November 2020 (Exact dates TBD)
  • Entry Fee: $100 (2019 Entry fee)
  • Entry Deadline: Non-imported: February 20th / Imported: March 14th (2019 Deadline)
  • About (from event website): 

The largest and most influential international wine competition in America, the San Francisco International Wine Competition (SFIWC) has been setting the standard for professional wine judging since its debut in 1980. Now in its 38th year, the SFIWC maintains the highest level of integrity with a blind-tasting system performed by a highly experienced panel of internationally acclaimed wine experts.


Personal thoughts: Head to head with its NY counterpart, the San Francisco Wine Competition is also one of the first ones I would consider for my own products. The competition provides direct opportunities with the trade through a very curated panel of qualified wine professionals. Medals also serve as a leverage for business development efforts both in California and the United States.



3. USA Wine Ratings (Website): 

  • Where: San Francisco
  • When: July 27th, 2020
  • Entry Fee: $75 before January 30th / $100.00 Until March 30th / $120 after March 31st
  • Entry Deadline: June 10th
  • About (from event website): 

The USA Wine Ratings looks to recognize, reward and help promote wine brands that have successfully been created to identify with and target a specific wine drinker. For any wine brand to earn its place on a retailer’s shelf or a restaurant’s wine list –  and then vitally stay there – they need to be marketable and consumer driven and not just produced in the general hope it can find enough people willing to sell and buy it.


Personal thoughts: Affiliated with the Beverage Trade Network, this competition provides a wide range of opportunities for producers looking to gain in visibility toward a large network of established wine professionals across the country. This competition / ratings opportunity is also definitely one of the top ones I would consider for my own products.


USA Wine Ratings Medals


4. Ultimate Wine Challenge (Website): 

  • Where: Ultimate Wine Challenge Evaluation Center
  • When: Throughout May 2020 (TBC)
  • Entry Fee: $115
  • Entry Deadline: TBC
  • About (from event website): 

Ultimate Wine Challenge™ provides the most expert and authoritative evaluation of wines for producers, marketers, importers, distributors and retailers available. Careful, meticulous evaluation of each product. Powerful marketing support and collateral that helps build your brands and further promote your products.


Personal thoughts: This competition is a great opportunity to obtain a US ratings that you can leverage while establishing your distribution network. While they are not as “mainstream” as other competitions/ratings, they are affiliated with the Beverage Media Group and can also serve as a stepping stone for a higher level of visibility within the trade. Definitely to be considered!


Ultimate Wine Challenge Medals


5. Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Competition (Website): 

  • Where: Las Vegas
  • When: April 20th – 23rd, 2020
  • Entry Fee: Must be exhibiting at convention ($2,825+) or book a Suite ($399+) + $35 fee per SKU
  • Entry Deadline: March 20th, 2020
  • About (from event website): 

The Wine & Spirits Tasting Competition (…) is one of the highlights of the WSWA Convention & Exposition and a great way to gain additional exposure for your brand(s). Judging and judging criteria for the Wine & Spirits Tasting Competition is managed by The Tasting Panel magazine and The Somm Journal, two of the most widely circulated trade publications in the beverage industry, reaching an audience of thousands of key decision-makers every month.


Personal thoughts: The annual WSWA Conference is clearly one of the most important industry events in the United States. It serves as a great hub for wine and spirits producers from around the world to meet with wholesalers and develop their distribution network in the US. Unfortunately for smaller producers, the competition isn’t a stand alone event and you must be registered as an exhibitor in order to enlist your products in the competition. Prices vary based on the sponsorship level, but the minimum you need to consider is $399 for a traditional studio suite.



6. Sommeliers Choice Awards (Website): 

  • Where: Oregon
  • When: May 18th, 2020
  • Entry Fee: $90 until January 31st / $125 until February 18th / $145 until February 28th
  • Entry Deadline: February 28th (International) April 10th (Domestic)
  • About (from event website): 

The goal of the Sommeliers Choice Awards is simple: to provide on-premise buyers and sommeliers a valuable benchmark for understanding which wines would make a compelling addition to a wine list. The judging panel of the Sommeliers Choice Awards will consist entirely of top sommeliers, on-premise wine buyers and wine directors at U.S. restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs.


Personal thoughts: This competition is the perfect opportunity for producers looking to gain both visibility and legitimacy toward on-premises professionals. Definitely one of the top ones I would consider to create more opportunities On-Premise. The competition is also affiliated with Beverage Trade Network which brings an additional layer of legitimacy to the competition.


7. Wine Enthusiast Ratings (Website): 

  • When: Throughout 2019
  • Entry Fee: $0 (Must be currently imported to the US)
  • Rating Process (from website): 

No fee for participation in our tasting and review program as long as the wines are imported into the U.S. We will not review any wines not currently imported into the U.S. We ask that submitters provide two bottles of each wine to be tasted; single bottles will be accepted, but we cannot guarantee individual follow-up if the sample provided is corked or otherwise compromised. The wine must be the final product, with current vintage, approved labeling and packaging. Read full procedure here: Wine Enthusiast Submission Process


Personal thoughts: As much as I personally believe traditional point rating systems are outdated, Wine Enthusiast Ratings are still a “must-have” for all producers trying to expand their sales in the US. Not only does a good rating open many doors with trade professionals, but it can also spark a huge interest at the consumer level. Definitely something to consider right away if you haven’t yet.


8. Wine Spectator Ratings (Website): 

  • When: Throughout 2020
  • Entry Fee: $0 (Must be distributed in major markets in the United States)
  • Rating Process (from website): 

Most of the wines we review are specifically requested by our editors and supplied by producers or importers. In order to achieve our coverage goals, Wine Spectator also spends thousands of dollars each year purchasing wines for review. In addition, we receive many unsolicited samples; unfortunately, due to logistical constraints, we cannot guarantee that these wines will be tasted or reviewed. Wines that are sent without the supplemental information we require will not be tasted. If you produce or represent a wine you would like Wine Spectator to review, contact the appropriate office for information. Contacting us before you send samples will save effort and expense for all concerned. Read full procedure here: Wine Spectator Submission Process


Personal thoughts: Just like Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator’s Ratings are a “must-have” for producers trying to expand in the US. They are relevant for both the trade and (some) consumers and only requite a couple of bottles. This is definitely an investment I would consider as well.


Wine Competitions & Ratings

9. Robert Parker | Wine Advocate (Website): 

  • When: Throughout 2020
  • Entry Fee: $0 (Must be currently imported to the US)
  • Rating Process (from website): 

Robert Parker’s rating system employs a 50-100 point quality scale (Parker Points®). It is my belief that the various twenty (20) point rating systems do not provide enough flexibility and often result in compressed and inflated wine ratings. The Wine Advocate takes a hard, very critical look at wine, since I would prefer to underestimate the wine’s quality than to overestimate it. The numerical ratings are utilized only to enhance and complement the thorough tasting notes, which are my primary means of communicating my judgments to you. Read full procedure here: Robert Parker / Wine Advocate Submission Process


Personal thoughts: I’ve always pictured Robert Parker as a Godfather-like type of guy sitting in a leather chair next to a fireplace and smoking cigars all day. Not very flattering for one of the biggest names in the industry, right? Well, I guess it’s a generational thing. While I do not necessarily value the RP / Wine Advocate ratings, they still are a thing for older generations. Producers from around the world should still consider it in 2020 (if they really want to, I guess).


Wine Competitions and ratings

10. Los Angeles International Wine Competition (Website): 

  • Where: Los Angeles
  • When: May 20th – 21st, 2020
  • Entry Fee: $90 before March 20/ $95.00 after March 20
  • Entry Deadline: April 15th, 2020
  • About (from event website): 

The Los Angeles International Wine Competition is committed to educating the public about wine, featuring industry experts with extensive knowledge about wine growing and selection, wine tasting and wine and food pairings. The competition achieved world-class status, attracting wines from around the world. The judging panel has grown to nearly 70 judges from all parts of the globe.


Personal thoughts: Much more consumer oriented than the SFIWC, the Los Angeles Wine Competition still provides a great opportunity for producers to gain visibility toward local trade and consumers. Obtaining medals at this competition will allow for more visibility across the festival’s platforms and will support both local, and to a larger extent, national distribution efforts. While I would consider this competition on the long run, I would probably focus on the trade-oriented ones in the first place. That being said, this can also be a great entry point if your strategy is focused on the Californian market.


Wine Competitions and Ratings

That’s about all I have in mind for the main wine competitions / ratings opportunities every wine producer must know. Should you be interested in knowing more about local opportunities for your product, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to guide you to the right ones!

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