$2.70 Supermarket Wine Wins Gold Medal at International Wine Contest

The judges of the prestigious Gilbert et Gaillard international wine competition were duped into awarding this year’s gold medal to a €2.50 ($2.70) supermarket wine they deemed “exceptional”.

Ever wonder how the average person chooses wine at a supermarket? Well, it turns out that having one or more medals plastered on the bottle can increase sales by up to 15 percent, so it’s no wonder that wineries take wine-tasting competitions very seriously. But does winning such medals actually reflect the quality of the wine, or are these contests simple money-making events that charge winemakers hefty sums for participation and the chance to increase sales? Eric Boschman, once named Belgium’s best sommelier, and the team at On n’est pas des pigeons, a Belgian consumer magazine and television program, decided to find out by taking the worst supermarket wine they could find and registering it in a prestigious wine competition.

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The organizers of this intriguing prank started out by enlisting the help of Eric Boschman, named Belgium’s best sommelier in 1988, and conducting a supermarket wine tasting. There were plenty of wines under €3 to choose from, but they decided to go with the cheapest and worst-tasting one they could find. a €2.50 bottle was selected and then disguised it as a premium product by naming it ‘Chateau Colombier’ and creating a more eye-catching label. They even created a story for the wine, claiming it was made from grape varieties located in Côtes de Sambre and Meuse (Wallonia).

On n’est pas des pigeons had dozens of wine contests to choose from, but they opted for Gilbert et Gaillard, a competition that reportedly awards medals every three months. Participants must pay a €50 ($55) entrance fee, send samples for tasting, and provide laboratory data, such as the alcohol and sugar levels. Luckily, this last requirement was easily bypassed, as organizers very rarely double-check winemakers’ provided data by paying for their own lab tests. 

To increase their chances of getting a good placement in the wine contest, the team at On n’est pas des pigeons sent in the lab data of another, truly high-quality wine, and, just as they suspected, no one bothered to check whether it was genuine. Boschman also started praising the €2.50 wine as exceptional to fellow sommeliers and wine enthusiasts, betting on the fact that many of them tend to be influenced by their peers.

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In the end, the prank worked like a charm. The €2.50 wine won the gold medal at the most recent Gilbert et Gaillard international wine competition, with the judges describing it as “suave, nervous (a quality of fresh wine) and rich palate with clean young scents that promise a nice complexity, very interesting”. Along with the announcement, organizers also notified the winners that they could buy 1,000 gold stickers to display on their wine labels for just €60.

On n’est pas des pigeons recently revealed their successful prank, warning consumers that not all wine gold medals are created equal. Some competitions are more professional than others, while some are just run as a business.

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