As the summer season begins it's turn towards fall, we know that that means the Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards event cannot be far off. We recently caught up with Founder & Event Executive Director Eddie Rivkin to see how things were going for this year's awards program.
Here's what he had to say:
Back in May, we caught up with you to talk about the upcoming Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards. Where do we stand now? How are those 2 events shaping up and are we just about ready to go?
Eddie Rivkin: Right now, we're about seven weeks out from the competitions and everything is pretty well going on track. Well, as well as on track and be considering we're in a COVID world.
I've been forced to continue to adapt on a day-to-day basis based on information that's coming out of Washington and information that's coming out of the state of Nevada, out of Clark County and out of the city of Las Vegas, where the competition is actually held.
With regards to entries, we are on track to exceed last year's pool total. The thing that I'm most excited about this year on the spirits side, especially is the incredibly diverse group of entries. We have entries from different companies that we haven't had in the previous years and also from different parts of the world that we haven't had spirits entries from previously.
So, the judges are going to have an incredible opportunity to try a very large number of spirits that are not available anywhere in the United States and spirits that are actually making their debut in the United States at this year's Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards.
As far as being ready to go, I would say I'm as ready as I can be seven weeks out. My staff and volunteers are coming together. The hotel aspect of it is in order. We still have some COVID protocols that we have to work through and disclaimers and things like that and safety precautions that we're going to include for this year's competition in addition to the ones that we used last year.
All in all, for seven weeks away from the competition, I'm at the exact right level of nervousness.
The quality of your judges has always been a huge differentiator for the Las Vegas Wine & Spirits Awards. What can you tell us about the judges you’ve got lined up for this year’s events?
ER: The key to the success of the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirits since its inception has been the quality of the judging panel and the singular focus of the competition.
There are a number of ways that competitions around the world handle their judging. The Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards has been and will always be a very singular function competition. We only judge what's in the bottles. My judges have an enormous background in both the wine and spirits industry.
The chairman of my spirits judges, Steve Beal has been a world-renowned scotch and whiskey expert for over 50 years. The chairman of my wine judges panel, Tim McDonald has been in the wine industry for over 40 years. I've been incredibly blessed to have them open up their Rolodexes to bring the most qualified judges on both the wine and spirits side into the competition each and every year.
The significance of only judging what's in the bottle is of great benefit to the suppliers, the distillers, the wine makers, anybody who's involved in the process of bringing a spirit or a wine to market. There are plenty of experts who can judge the quality of a label or the design or the price or the value or the perceived price or value on a spirit. Those concerns are, frankly, not concerns of mine.
I want my entrants to know how good a product they produce because when it comes to moving forward in the process, trying to sell and trying to get distribution in three tier states, distributors will look at not only the scores and what medals you win, but they'll look at who judges and awards these scores.
And when you look at the judges panel that the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards, you see one thing and one thing only, and that's industry experts. Because of that, the credibility that goes with winning a medal in either of the competitions is significant.
I don't want to say leverage, but perhaps value to a brand going forward, trying to get from the incubator stage to the sales stage, to the optics of growing a brand in an incredibly complicated and a very, very competitive market, especially here in Las Vegas.
Since their beginning, the Awards events have increased their worldwide visibility. This year, are there any new “twists” to continue that growing global presence and popularity?
ER: I think twist is kind of a misnomer for how these competitions tend to grow every year. I have to adjust the categories and all of the other factors that go into the competition. The best example of that is right now in the spirits world. And, to a certain extent in the wine world, ready-to-drink cocktails and seltzers are the hottest, fastest growing spirits in the market. And on the wine side, there's canned wines, which nobody would ever have thought was a category as well as wine-based coolers. People of a certain age would remember Bartles & James coolers, for example.
So, it's not really a twist that makes things grow. It's basically understanding the market that I work in and being able and flexible enough to adapt to the changes that happen every year.
I will give you this one twist because in this new world, there are influencers. And influencers, though they may not have the most outstanding palate - and spirit or wine education - they do provide a value. And this year in the Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards for the first time, basically in any competition around the world, I'm flying in two influencers from Colorado who have hundreds of thousands of followers. And they are, with no disrespect, a couple of housewives who love to talk about alcohol and they have a huge following.
One of my volunteers is friendly with them and these two women are going to come down and they are going to participate in the judging of the ready-to-drink cocktails and of the seltzers. And we are going to incorporate their B2C consumer-forward facing opinions into the judging equation with the experts. And they're going to broadcast live from the Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards on October 11th through 13th to their followers.
And they're going to have a couple of cocktails, I guess, is the best way to say it because our judges generally sample and then spit out because they sample so many of the course of the day. These ladies indicate that “we're going to be drinking”. So, their scores will count. Their opinion will matter because they're consumers and seltzers and RTDs are the hottest thing going.
So, if you want to talk about a twist, I would say that's probably pretty significant.
I don't know how it's going to work. It's going to be “a something”. I promise you that it's going to be “a something” and that people will notice it and know about it. And, they’ll either wave their finger at me and call me an idiot - or say that was a pretty clever idea.
Once again, Stolzle Glassware and RAK dinnerware are sponsors to the Awards events. How does having these products involved help elevate the awards programs overall?
ER: Having Stoelzle as the glassware sponsor was probably the most important change that I've made in the competitions so far. You can't overestimate the importance and the value of the vessel that the judges use to rate and score and award medals in a competition setting. When I made the decision to enter an agreement with RAK and Stoelzle, it was made because the quality of the glassware that they produce is unparalleled. The German crystal is dependable, it's strong, it's perfectly constructed and manufactured.
The judges have the best opportunity to look at a spirit and judging color is part of the judging process. To have a perfect, incredibly well-manufactured glass that the judges can see color clearly is an important point. Having superior glassware is an important key to the success of the competition and the ability of the judges to give a fair score and rating to any entrant on the spirits side.
It's especially important because we use the nosing glass from Stoelzle and the design of the glass funnels, the aroma of the spirit from a wide bell bottom up to a taller, thinner flute that allows the judges to get a very accurate sense of the aroma - the true smell of a spirit.
The design of the wine glass is perfect also for the competition. And again, to be repetitive, it's the quality and the manufacturing of the Stoelzle glassware which made it a no-brainer for me to decide to make the switch two years ago.
What are the dates of this year’s competition and how can people find out more information about the Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards?
ER: This year, for the second year in a row, the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards will be conducted on the same dates. This year's competitions are on October 11th through the 13th.
And if you want more information, you can look up either competition www.vegaswineawards.com and www.vegasspiritawards.com.
If you're a brand that's interested in entering, and you have a very specific question that you would like addressed, you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am pretty much a one man show. That is my personal email address. And the response that you get from me - will be from me, not a staff member. Anybody that has any questions, wants more information or specific information, the websites introduce you to the complete judging panels. They give you all the important reasons why you would want to enter the competition.
And if you have something specific in mind, that's not addressed on either of the websites - by all means, shoot me an email and I will answer your question.
The Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards are to be held once again later this year with the wine competition to be held in August and the spirits competition to be held in September. Stolzle, along with our hospitality distribution partner RAK USA, is both proud and excited to once again be supporting the Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Founder/Executive Director Eddie Rivkin to discuss the award programs and how they came into being - and, how he managed to continue to hold them despite the COVID pandemic. Here's what he had to say:
The goal of the awards is to become the pre-eminent, most credible source for evaluating scoring and awarding medals to wines and spirits in the world. Additionally, because of success in the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards, our goal is to help brands gain access (distribution) in the highly competitive Las Vegas market. That success will lead to increased sales and visibility not only here in Las Vegas, but nationally and globally because of the exposure to the 50 million plus visitors annually.
Subsequently the value of winning a medal in the competition is highly respected and valuable in the industry and can be leveraged multiple ways both in B2B and B2C arenas. As Founder and Executive Director, I lean heavily on my two Chairman of the Judges Panels to continually add highly qualified judges every year. Between them, Tim McDonald (Wine) and Steve Beal (Spirits), they have over 90 years industry experience and have judged hundreds of competitions around the world. Their circles of influence and professional relationships are ever expanding and provide a constant flow of highly qualified judges for the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards.
Q: How are the entries – whether they be in the wine category or the spirits category – judged.
ER: The judging process, itself, is conducted as a 100% double blind tasting process from the early rounds all the way through the sweepstakes rounds. As each entry is received, it is catalogued in our system and put into its most appropriate sub-category.
During the preliminary rounds of the competition, all the wines and spirits in their respective and specific sub-categories are sampled together as flights, carefully evaluated from appearance to smell, color to finish, and scored by panels of our judges in flights of like categories.
Important to note is that the entries are judged individually, on their own merits, NOT against each other. Then, scores for each spirit are tallied. The few entries that have the distinguished honor of being scored the highest by the panels in the preliminary rounds move on to our sweepstakes round.
On the final afternoon of the competition, those exceptional entries are all re-tasted by the entire panel of judges who then vote and award the most highly sought after “Best Of” Category and Show Awards.
Q: Last year, during the pandemic, you had to adjust your events to maintain safety protocols, yet you were still able to maintain the high level of quality of the overall competition. What changes did you have to make and will many of those changes remain for the 2021 competition?
ER: The 2020 competitions certainly presented an entirely new and different set of challenges when it came to setting up the comfort and safety for the judges and volunteers.
In addition to the requirements set forth by the State of Nevada, Clark County and the City of Las Vegas, I added a significant number of additional health and safety protocols beginning with temperature checks for everyone upon arrival to the competition area and upon returning from any off-premise activity.
Some of the other protocols included volunteers that interacted with the judges always wore face shields masks and gloves and changed gloves after every evolution with the judges. Prep area volunteers changed gloves after every evolution. Judges were provided with both face shields and masks for their comfort and safety and were distanced more than the mandated six feet.
The key takeaway from all the additional protocols implemented for the 2020 Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirit Awards that none of the judges or volunteers ever conveyed to me any concern for their safety during the three days of the competition and no positive tests occurred because of doing the competition in person.
Second, the visual appearance of the Stolzle glassware is just stunning. I know, most people will say a wine glass is a wine glass. But for me as a competition owner, and someone who must be keen on how things will look when photographed, the Stolzle glassware exceeds expectation.
Our post show publicity has worldwide reach and the glassware must look the part. The nosing glass we selected for the Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards is so incredibly elegant and unlike anything used in any other competition around the world.
In the world of wine and spirit competitions where even the smallest details matter significantly, having the highest quality glassware from Stolzle makes a huge difference.
Q: What are the dates of this year’s competition and how can people find out more information about the Las Vegas Global Wine & Spirits Awards?
ER: Here are the dates and individual websites for each event:
The 2021 Las Vegas Global Wine Awards will take place August 9 – 11.
Information can be found at www.VegasWineAwards.com
The 2021 Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards will take place September 13 -15.
Information can be found at www.VegasSpiritAwards.com
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