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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 10:00 pm

A wine competition unlike any other is headed to Lodi.

The International Wine Awards will take place March 11-13 at Hutchins Street Square, featuring wine judges who have been judged themselves for their sensory abilities.

An invitation-only reception to promote next year's event was held Tuesday evening in Lodi.

"This is something that has never been done before - we're breaking ground," said David Akin, a local winemaker who has helped organize the competition.

Potential judges will be screened to find out their "sensory sensitivity," he said.

An equal number of judges with tastes that are "tolerant," "sensitive" and "hyper-sensitive" will then evaluate wines at the event.

Finding judges with a range of tastes is important because consumers have a range of tastes, too, Akin said. And they don't always like the wines judged to be best of show.

"It is well-known in wine judging circles that awards are often given to the biggest, boldest and most assertive wines," said Tim Hanni, a wine expert based in the Napa Valley, in a press release announcing the event.

"It's been a problem because big 'monster' wines tend to stand out in a crowd, while more delicate and elegant wines - equally as good - may be lost," he added.

A half-dozen "sensory specialists" from the University of California, Davis, and institutions across the country and Canada will advise the event organizers, Akin noted.

Event organizers are also developing a survey that will help attendees evaluate their own palates. Based on the results, they'll be able to select wines that match their own taste profile.

The Lodi Tokay Rotary is sponsoring the event, and will donate proceeds to local charities and nonprofit groups studying consumer taste sensitivity.

City leaders have praised the unique competition as a way to raise the awareness of Lodi as a wine destination and center of wine innovation.

"It looks like it could be the beginning of something that could bring visibility and notoriety to Lodi wines," said Mayor Bob Johnson."

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at chrisn@lodinews.com.

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