Already the world’s largest wine competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards saw a record number of entries at the 2021 competition, where Sayburn held the position of Acting Co-Chair. Now officially appointed, this is the first time in the competition’s 19-year history that four Co-Chairs will oversee the competition.
Scroll down for Ronan Sayburn’s full bio and Q&A
First held in 2004, the late Steven Spurrier was Chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards for thirteen years until stepping down to become Chairman Emeritus in 2017, whereby the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS was appointed a Co-Chair alongside Evans and Hill Smith. Jefford became a Co-Chair the following year in 2018.
Vital to the competition, the Co-Chairs re-taste all Gold medals awarded by regional panels for final endorsement, re-taste again with Regional Chairs during the second round of Platinum judging, then once more to award the top 50 wines of the competition – the Best in Show. Learn more about the rigorous DWWA judging process here.
At the 2022 competition, Sayburn and the returning DWWA Co-Chairs will be responsible for overseeing some 280 judges, including Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and wine experts from across the globe.
With just two weeks left before DWWA 2022 entries close on 10 March, we get to know more about Ronan Sayburn MS, including his most valuable lessons in the wine industry, advice for wine professionals looking to get into judging, his biggest inspirations and more…
Tell us a little about yourself – what’s a typical day like for you?
No day is the same. At the moment, with travel opening again, I am busy with our new ventures for Pall Mall in Switzerland and Singapore. Plus running courses and exams with the Court of Master Sommeliers all over the world.
Zoom has made meetings easier but cannot replace in-person meetings or courses and this involves lots of travel. Plus I run various masterclasses, do a little bit of writing (we are bout to publish our second book under 67 Pall Mall), presenting for our TV channel as well as working with Decanter.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Passing my MS exam in 2005.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
Respect your wine suppliers, merchants and staff.
Do you have any advice for wine professionals looking to get into wine judging?
Listen and learn from those more experienced than you, be patient and wait to gain experience before wanting to become a senior judge. Listen to everybody else’s opinion and don’t be narrow minded. Team working and respecting others is important.
Which wine-producing areas do you think should be given more attention in 2022?
Eastern European wines are always very interesting and good value for money.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
Gerard Basset was well loved and respected within the wine community and especially with Sommeliers.
As we recently heard in the Decanter at Home DWWA masterclass, food and wine pairings are second nature for you. Do you have any favourite pairings at the moment, or a go-to pairing that you recommend to readers?
Always the classics – oysters and oaky Sauvignon Blanc, venison and Cote Rotie, jamón ibérico and Palo Cortado, Camembert and Loire Cab Franc, to name just a few.
You’ve already been Acting Co-Chair at DWWA, but now an official position, what are you looking forward to most as a Co-Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I will be looking forward to getting the whole international team of judges back together. After two years of limited COVID imposed restrictions, now people will be free to travel.
More about Ronan Sayburn MS
Over his 20 years in the wine business, Ronan Sayburn MS has worked with wine merchant OW Loeb, was sommelier at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Pied à Terre, and was executive head sommelier for the Gordon Ramsay restaurant group for eight years.
First a DWWA judge in 2004, he was also the director of wines and spirits for the Hotel du Vin group as well as head of wines for the prestigious Dorchester Collection UK.
A previous winner of the UK Sommelier of the Year competition, at present he is CEO for the Court of Master Sommeliers European chapter, is head of wine at 67 Pall Mall in London, and runs his own consultancy, RS Wine Academy, a consultancy specialising in managing private portfolios, wine events and wine training for the trade and public.
When not drinking wine Ronan runs marathons, can be found deep diving shipwrecks from the south coast of England or travelling the vineyards of the world.