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.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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
The Co-Chairs' daily morning meeting with Regional Chairs.
Beth Willard, joint Regional Chair for Spain, discussing with judges Almudena Alberca MW (left) and Pilar Cavero (right).
Behind the scenes interview with Regional Chair for the Rhône, Matt Walls.
New joint Regional Chair for North, Central & Eastern Europe Simon Woolf signs off a confirmed Gold medal across from judge Mario Meštrović.
Wines are flighted by country, region, colour, grape, style, vintage and price. Each panel evaluates around eight flights per day.
The Southern Italy panel, with Regional Chair Anthony Rose and judges Devon Lochhead (back right) and JC Viens (front right).
The warehouse handled more than 74,000 bottles across 2023 judging week.
Final flights for the day being checked off for judging in the warehouse.
Co-Chair Sarah Jane Evans MW discussing with Regional Chair for Argentina, Paz Levinson.
Regional Chair for Burgundy Charles Curtis MW with judges Laurent Richet MS and Robin Kick MW.
At the end of the day, all judges are invited to sample the Gold medal-winning wines of the day.
Cat Lomax and Jamie Hutchinson judging on the Rhône panel. Huge thanks to our water sponsor, Belu, keeping our judges hydrated throughout the week.
Special thanks to our long-time sponsor Riedel, ensuring our expert judges have the highest quality wine glasses for optimum tasting.
The staff diligently working behind the scenes of Decanter World Wine Awards judging week, critical to making DWWA run meticulously.