2017 Decanter World Wine Awards: an Aussie perspective

I’ve just returned from a week in London judging at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards – which is claimed to be the world’s biggest wine judging. This year they received a record 17,200 entries, of which approximately 1,000 were from Australia. Each year, entries are received from all corners of the globe, and around 240 tasters are enlisted to assess them.

The judging was in a new venue this year, CentrEd at ExCel, a massive building in London’s docklands area. English wine writer Anthony Rose and I co-chaired the Australian panels. I replaced Michael Hill Smith, who was promoted to co-chair the entire competition with Sarah Jane Evans and Gerard Basset (long-time chair Steven Spurrier having retired).

There are 34 regional chairs supervising just over 200 judges. My colleague Bob Campbell MW chairs the New Zealand panel.

It’s 10 years since I’d last been involved in this event, and the changes were impressive. I only judged Aussie wines, so my comments are restricted to those wines. There were more wines, the quality was higher, the success rate greater, and the judging was more professional than a decade ago. More than 60 Australian gold medals were awarded, which is a record.

Stand-out categories were shiraz, fortified wines and chardonnay. Great improvements have been made in chardonnay in that time, and this was reflected in the entries. Pinot noir has similarly come up in the world, although there were fewer top pinots entered. We did find two superb Tasmanian examples, though.

There were also smatterings of superb South Australian and Tasmanian rieslings, lovely Hunter semillons, some with substantial age on them, and terrific cabernets – largely from Western Australia and South Australia. Sparklings were also superb but in limited numbers.

Shiraz was the scene stealer: we had a taste-off to find the best shiraz of our 18 gold medals, and there was a range of styles, from the somewhat old-fashioned oaky, tannic blockbusters to the more modern, elegant, deliciously fruit-driven, medium-bodied styles. All were given a fair hearing, and many styles were rewarded.

The results will be published in the first week of June on Decanter online. The full write-up will be published in the July edition of Decanter magazine.

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