The world’s largest wine competition

Judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

I’ve recently spent a week in London chairing the New Zealand section of the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) – the world’s largest wine competition by a significant margin. Over 17,200 entrants submitted four bottles of each wine, that’s 68,800 bottles that must be unpacked, logged in, tagged, sorted, opened and disposed of.

Four bottles are necessary in case there’s a faulty closure or the wine is lucky enough to make it into a trophy tasting when fresh bottles are needed. Unopened bottles are sold to raise money for Water Aid – a “Turning wine into water” project that transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene, and sanitation.

The DWWA is judged by 219 wine professionals including 65 Masters of Wine and 20 Master Sommeliers. I chaired the New Zealand section while Huon Hooke chaired the Australian section.

The competition used 33,000 Riedel Chianti glasses and 9,000 champagne flutes. The judges drank nearly 3,000 bottles of mineral water over five days.

How did New Zealand perform?

The results are still under embargo, however, by my calculations, New Zealand earned twice as many gold medals as the overall average. My observations on several classes:

  • In the past, I have been very critical about the poor quality of sauvignon blanc in the lowest price category (under GBP £7.99) but I was surprised and delighted this year with the overall quality at the cheap and cheerful end of the scale.
  • My fellow judges and I were all knocked out by one (moderately dry) riesling. I’ll share its identity when known and after I have purchased a case.
  • Pinot noir was a predictably strong class that earned many gold medal awards.
  • Chardonnay was another strong class with some surprisingly good wines in the cheaper categories.

2 thoughts on “The world’s largest wine competition”

  1. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    Hello Kim,
    I don’t like having my name besmirched on my own blog. If you call the Decanter wine awards a ‘scam’ you are accusing both Bob and myself of being corrupt by being associated with it. This is repellent to me. It’s not a scam. You can take issue with the number of awards it makes if you like, but calling it a scam is over the top.
    I personally don’t like the ‘commended’ concept: I’d rather they didn’t have that at all. But it’s not my show and my opinion on that counts for nothing. Otherwise, it is a well-run show which is above reproach and I have no problem with working for Decanter – as I have as a contributor for over 25 years.
    Kim, you seem to be generally anti wine show. Now, we all know no wine competition is perfect, indeed, no way of assessing wine is perfect, but competitions perform a useful function for both consumer and producer, and that’s why I support them.
    By all means, take no notice of ‘commended’ awards, even ignore the bronzes if you choose (although a $10-$15 bronze medal wine can be a very good buy) but as panel chairs Bob and I oversee the gold awards on our respective panels, and taste all of the silvers as well, and I personally stand by the results with which I was involved.
    In your analysis of the 2015 DWWA you will see that if you subtract the Commended awards the actual medals awarded are around 44% of entries, which is similar to most Australian wine shows these days, and lower than many. I don’t think it is excessive. A Commended is not a medal.

  2. Kim Brebach says:

    Huon, my valued friend. I’m surprised you and Bob would lend your good names to this scam.
    You might want to check my blog post ‘Do medals on wine bottles mean anything?’
    The answer was: Not when 2 wine competitions hand out over 20,000 awards.
    Kim Brebach

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