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(If they really found we were flagging, they had the power to take us over to the side of the room for a quick tea break—we did get one once, and it was incredibly welcome.) Logistics, as I mentioned, are a huge part of the competition.

The runners that brought our wines were volunteers, people who took a few days off work to learn about wine; they were allowed to taste all the wines left in the bottles after the judges had poured their portions.

It helped to befriend our runners, because they would deliver wines very quickly, and forage for more water and crackers when needed.

Other wines were also re-tasted by the more senior judges, either to make sure they should be out of competition, or in case of any controversy on the floor.

During our judging, as I said before, all wines were tasted blind, but we were told something about the general category of each wine flight.

It overlooked part of the gigantic lower floor that had been turned into a wine warehouse for the event.

All wines are tasted blind at IWC, so runners brought in all the flights of wines in coded wrappers.Through the runner, we could also plead for a change in our program, like the times when we were longing for crisp, white wines after half a dozen flights of tannic reds.Sometimes the pleas were answered by the powers-that-be in the back rooms (the chairmen); mostly they were not, and we were kept to our original assigned flights.We were required to have compelling explanations for why a wine should—or should not—go on to the finals.Each “commended” wine was later re-tasted by the people judging in further rounds.Then the bottles were placed in a defined order in the “picking area” till they were selected for judging.

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