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Decanter World Wine Awards 2023 judging week highlights

Already the world's largest wine competition, 2023 saw record entries for DWWA with over 18,500 wines evaluated across one week of judging. Discover highlights from the week.

This 24 to 29 April, Decanter World Wine Awards celebrated 20 years with record-breaking wine entries and an exceptional judging panel made up of almost 250 wine experts – more than 100 of these international judges from 31 countries.

‘We have had a whole lot of fun over the years,’ said DWWA Co-Chair Michael Hill Smith MW, involved with the competition since its launch in 2004.

Michael Hill Smith MW discussing with panel

Michael Hill Smith MW discussing with the Languedoc Roussillon panel including Regional Chair Justin Howard-Sneyd MW and judges Alun Griffiths MW, Elsa Macdonald MW (front left) and Audrey Annoh-Antwi (back left). Credit: Nic Crilly Hargrave

‘A lot of people have been here since the early days; it is a fabulous thing we should all be proud of. We also should be proud that there is a whole bright group of young talented judges coming through,’ he continued.

Also part of the competition since its inception, Co-Chair Andrew Jefford reflected, I remember the little acorn that was planted in Parsons Green 20 years ago has now grown to this mighty oak – it’s wonderful to be with it all along the way.’

Co-Chairs Andrew Jefford and Sarah Jane Evans MW. Credit: Nic Crilly Hargrave

The competition was co-founded by the late Steven Spurrier, Chairman of Decanter World Wine Awards from 2004 to 2016, before becoming Chairman Emeritus in 2017.

The late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS was then appointed a joint Chair of the competition alongside Sarah Jane Evans MW and Michael Hill Smith MW. Andrew Jefford joined the Co-Chair panel one year later in 2018, then Ronan Sayburn MS in 2022.

Co-Chair Ronan Sayburn MS discussing with the USA judging panel including a full Master Sommelier team: Senior judge Gareth Ferreira MS (back), Chris Tanghe MS (front left), Tamas Czinki MS (front right) and Regional Chair James Tidwell MS (not pictured).

‘It’s a pretty incredible kind of organisation which is grown organically, started by some people here, and it has just grown into something huge,’ said Ronan Sayburn MS, addressing the DWWA 2023 judging panel.

DWWA Gold medal wines

Gold-awarded wines ready to be re-evaluated by the Co-Chairs. Credit: Ellen Richardson

‘More than anything else, past and present judges are for me, an incredible honour, incredible privilege and an incredible responsibility to be walking in the footsteps of Steven Spurrier, Gerard Basset and many other people,’ he continued. 

On celebrating 20 years, Sarah Jane Evans MW added, ‘Each year we come to it fresh, and each year there seem to be more wines – we are doing more than 18,500. I mean, it is the world’s biggest wine competition, so it’s great to celebrate this milestone.

‘But, what’s so exciting about it is the way it gets better every year. There was obviously a model when it started off, but it just gets more and more professional.’

DWWA 2023 wine judge Matthew Forster MW

Senior judge Matthew Forster MW evaluating Spanish rosado wines on the Spain panel with Agustin Trapero, Matthieu Longuere MS and joint Regional Chairs Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW and Beth Willard. Credit: Ellen Richardson

Throughout the week 229 panels, made up of three to four judges each, evaluated wines in their regions of expertise. Now onto the second round of judging, all Gold-awarded wines from last week are being re-evaluated by a selection of Regional Chairs and the Co-Chairs to either re-confirm wines as Gold, declassify to Silver, or promote to Platinum.

The competition’s final round of judging will take place later this week where the Co-Chairs will re-evaluate all Platinum-awarded wines to award the competition’s top 50 Best in Show.

Scroll down to see more photo highlights from the first week of Decanter World Wine Awards 2023 judging.

DWWA 2023 judging week highlights in pictures