In 2005, James Tidwell MS and Drew Hendricks MS launched a conference for sommeliers— one with a vision of promoting professional wine service standards, outlining paths for further wine education and certification, and raising public awareness about the professional standards and certifications for sommeliers. From humble beginnings, that conference (TEXSOM) has become the leading sommelier conference in the world and draws nearly 1,300 of the wine industry’s most influential leaders to Dallas each year.
Seeing an opportunity to grow their reach and expand their mission, Tidwell and Hendricks purchased the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition in 2014 from its owner, Rebecca Murphy, a widely respected wine writer in Dallas. Murphy founded the competition in 1985 and it grew to become one of the top wine competitions in the United States. This became the foundation for today’s TEXSOM International Wine Awards. The Awards has continued to grow in scope as well as prestige, largely due to the focus on excellence and rigorous standards established by the TEXSOM team.
In a November 2017 paper titled Wine Competitions: Reevaluating the Gold Standard, published by the Journal of Wine Economics, a high-quality, peer-reviewed research journal published by the American Association of Wine Economists, the TEXSOM International Wine Awards was called out for being the most selective among the competitions studied. The final finding of the paper is that all golds are not created equal—some competitions appear to be able to differentiate more effectively amongst quality levels than others. The implication is that the TEXSOM International Wine Awards was at the top of the pyramid. They pointed out that the evaluation methods articulated for the TEXSOM International Wine Awards are far more detailed and rigorous than is typical of other competitions.
“We intentionally set a more rigorous standard for the TEXSOM International Wine Awards,” said Tidwell. “By employing the best judges in the business and setting the bar high, we’ve established that medals from this competition have more value than others. The caliber and international expertise of our judges bring a global perspective, placing us on par with the best competitions in Europe and beyond. This may be demonstrated by the remarkable consistency (medal percentages within 2%) we’ve seen over the past five years. In fact, the value of a medal in the TEXSOM International Wine Awards is recognized by the promotional and marketing partners we work with who make a concerted effort to market medal-winning wines. All of the above, together with our focus on training and educating the next generation of tastemakers, the TEXSOM International Wine Awards holds a unique position in the wine world.”
In addition to the impressive pedigree of the judges, one of the key and unique aspects of the TEXSOM International Wine Awards is the focus on beverage service education and development. Each year, roughly forty individuals from some of the best restaurants and retailers in the country participated in an intensive sommelier retreat. The group participates in four days of workshops, seminars, presentations, and tastings, where they are instructed on such diverse topics as evaluating aged wines to effective self-study practices to tea service. In addition, a selection of Master Sommeliers mentor each individual participant on their approach to beverage service. These sommelier participants are integral in the preparation of the wines for competition, and therefore note every bottle that is entered. By entering wines in the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, wineries support the education and growth of these future tastemakers and benefit from increased exposure to this key audience.
Along with the educational activities, each participant tastes and writes detailed descriptions of a selection of medal winning wines. A handful of noted wine writers act as copy editors and help guide the retreat members in producing these notes. Each note is highlighted as a Featured Wine on the TEXSOM International Wine Awards website and in other promotional pieces over the course of the year.
The TEXSOM International Wine Awards arranges award entries by category of beverage, place of origin, and type. The final list of all winners includes: Judges’ Selections, Traditional Method Sparkling Wines, Other Sparkling Wines, Fortified (Dry and Sweet), Sake, White Wines, Rosé and Blush Wines, Red Wines, Ciders, and Fruit, Flavored and Honey Wines.
Entries in the TEXSOM International Wine Awards are blind-tasted and judged by 60-70 internationally renowned tastemakers from six countries, including Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, and other category experts. In 2018, the judges awarded 2,223 medals: 285 Gold medals (9% of total entries), 760 Silver medals (24%), and 1,178 Bronze medals (37%). Suggested retail pricing of medal-winning entries ranged from US $2.99 to over US $700.00. Vintages spanned eight decades, with the oldest being 1957. This year saw greater diversity in entries, ranging from little known varieties to a burgeoning list of “orange” wines to wines in alternative packaging (bag-in-box, tetrapak, cans, etc.).
The TEXSOM International Wine Awards team looks forward to working with the entire wine industry to identify and champion wines of quality and distinction at all levels around the world.