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The Asian venue fuels strong interest and brings logistical challenges and technical innovations

2018 will be a landmark year for the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB) – for the first time, the competition is heading beyond its European borders and travelling all the way to Beijing. That, though, is just one of many “firsts” the 25th competition has to offer.

From a technological perspective, 2018 will be the first year with entirely digital evaluations. The tasting sheets will be replaced by tablets, which will allow the judges and especially the panel chairs to be more efficient and focus on the tasting instead of the paperwork. The technology was tested with a few panels in 2017 in Valladolid with very positive results. Digital evaluations are safer, faster and easier.

In terms of logistics, 2018 is also a first in that samples will be shipped from Brussels to Beijing by plane. The Concours Mondial de Bruxelles has booked half a Boeing and the estimated weight of the samples and technical equipment to be transported is approximately 75 tons. To ensure customs clearance, the samples will be shipped five weeks before the event, which is why the closing date for entries falls slightly earlier, on March 1, 2018.

Despite the new logistical dimension of the competition in 2018, entry fees remain unchanged. All additional costs for shipping and customs incurred due to the Beijing location are borne by the organizers.

After the record number of 9,080 samples in 2017, the organizers expect similar or even higher figures for the coming year, though the primary objective of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is not growth. “We are looking to maintain quality”, comments Thomas Costenoble, CMB managing director. “Once we reach around 9,000 samples for China, we will reserve the right to close registrations even before the official entry deadline”, he adds.

The CMB team will be on location 10 days earlier than usual to make sure everything is prepared on time and runs according to plan. In 2018, the organizers are expecting their largest local back-up: some 200 catering school students and their supervisors will be hired to help with the preparations and organization of the tasting sessions in Beijing.

Interest in the CMB by the Chinese wine industry is colossal. The organizers have received over 1,000 applications from Chinese wine experts to become judges in 2018. To manage the influx, the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is planning its most extensive and strictest selection process in the history of the competition with only about 60 candidates ultimately approved to take part.The first round of selections will be conducted by a local team, in compliance with CMB standards, whilst the final stage will be handled by the organizers personally. Candidates will attend educational sessions and tastings and will be trained to taste and evaluate wines from all over the world, learning to adapt their taste to judge wines from across the globe. The 60 Chinese tasters who make it to the judging panels will take one last “live” test the day before the competition starts.

Similarly, tastings of local wines prior to the competition are part of the event’s supporting program, introducing judges from outside the country to the specifics of Chinese wines. For the first time, Concours Mondial will also organize a symposium where Western experts will present their vision of Chinese wine and the domestic industry. Touristic and cultural visits are part of the judges’ program as an additional extra.

Despite the many new aspects of the 25th Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, the event’s fundamentals remain unchanged. “We will still have the same quality and diversity of judges as we do every year. Our international pre-, during and post-event communications will target the same distributors, journalists and influencers as before”, explains Thomas Costenoble. He also points out some of the main benefits of having Beijing as a host: “Our Asian venue will bring new business contacts for participants, exposing them to a new, very dynamic market and culture and, of course, offering them the chance to discover some interesting wines”.

The 25th CMB will be held from May 10 to 13, 2018, in the Haidian district of Beijing with the support of the Beijing Municipal Government, the Haidian District of Beijing and the Beijing International Wine and Spirit Exchange (BJIWSE).