Wednesday, December 2, 2009

F. Paul Pacult Founds "Ultimate Beverage Challenge"

Hot of the Heels of New York getting it's own cocktail convention in the new Manhattan Cocktail Classic comes news that New York will in 2010 play host to a new wine and spirits competition.

Called Ultimate Beverage Challenge (UBC), it was founded by well-known spirits journalist, author, educator and critic F. Paul Pacult (above), wine and spirits publishing industry veteran David Talbot, and Spirit Journal managing editor Sue Woodley. The trio will be tacking not only spirits, but wine and cocktails in a three-tiered event stretched over four months.

The first competition will be the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, which will test all distilled spirits categories, including shochu. It will take place March 1-3, 2010. The second chapter is called the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge, in which spirits will be judged on how well they perform in classic cocktails. That occurs on April 12-14, 2010. Finally comes the Ultimate Wine Challenge, for the evaluation of fine still, sparkling, and fortified wines, which will be held on June 7-11, 2010.

Like the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, all the competitions will take place at the Astor Center in the East Village.

The new competition is setting great store by a new method of judging liquor, and a new way of approaching award-giving. Many competitions have recently come under fire for the profligate way they doll out medals (notably in a recent, lengthy article in Malt Advocate in which Pacult was interviewed). If fact, at many bouts, it's hard for a bottle to walk away without a medal, rendering the awards nearly meaningless as consumer yardsticks.

In a press statement, David Talbot said, “We’ll be using a unique multilevel scoring system, designed for UBC by Paul, which is based upon the 100-point scale. UBC results will more consistently and accurately recognize benchmark and superb products, setting them apart from the merely average. Producers will gain the maximum benefits for products that win high scores because those products will have earned authoritative accolades rather than ubiquitous medals.”

The UBC plans to be very precise in its judging. Spirits will be "served in proper glassware at ideal serving temperatures. Vodkas will be served to judges chilled. Cask strength whiskeys will be judged both with and without water dilution.” The cocktail competition, meanwhile, will "evaluate spirits categories in the context of how they taste in representative cocktails," Pacult stated. "For instance, gins will be tasted in five classic gin cocktails against other entered gin brands. So, one gin might be recognized as the “Best Gin in a Gin & Tonic” while another might garner “Best Gin in a Dry Martini” honors and yet another might win as “Best Gin in an Aviation” The wine contest, finally will accentuate "the ever-expanding list of wine regions, nations and terroir influences as well as grape varieties and varietal combinations."

Judges will include many of the names that often pop up in places where people get together and talk seriously about booze, including Jacques Bezuidenhout, Tad Carducci, Charles Curtis, Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Ethan Kelley, Don Lee, Jim Meehan, Steve Olson, Nick Passmore, Gary Regan, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Andy Seymour, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan and David Wondrich, and more.”

If you wish to have your intoxicant judged by these worthies, however, you will have to pay for the honor. As with other wine and spirits competitions, there are fairly hefty entry fees: $445 each for 1 to 5 spirit products from one company entered at one time; $395 each for 6 or more spirit products from one company entered at one time. All fees must be paid and all products must be entered with proper classification code two weeks (Monday, February 15, 2010) prior to Ultimate Spirits Challenge. One can apply online, by mail or by fax beginning January 4, 2010.

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