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The 17th Decanter World Wine Awards judging month highlights

For 28 consecutive days more than 115 expert wine judges are tasting over 16,500 wines under safe, socially distanced conditions to carry out the world’s largest and most prestigious wine competition

Decanter World Wine Awards 2020 judging began on 1st August, and over the course of 28 consecutive days, 118 expert wine judges, including 37 Masters of Wine and nine Master Sommeliers, are judging 16,518 wines from 56 countries.


Wines that receive a Gold medal will be re-tasted the last week of judging month by our Co-Chairs and select Regional Chairs to award Platinum medals. Platinum winners will then be re-tasted again to compete for Best in Show – the ultimate accolade given to the finest wines at DWWA.

In order to safely carry out the world’s largest wine competition in this exceptional year, judging has been re-located across three floors of the Decanter offices in Canary Wharf to ensure absolute control of a safe judging environment and movement of people.

Decanter Head of Events & Awards, Victoria Stanage commented, ‘What started as a joke, holding DWWA 2020 at the Decanter office building, evolved into the best decision we could have made. The three vacant office floors in our building offered us the flexibility of space and time necessary to stretch the five-day tasting over a month.

‘The open plan office made it possible for social distancing measures to be put in place comfortably and the extended judging days helped when juggling the schedules of over 100 UK-based judges.’

Some safety measures put into place include temperature checks on the door, staggered arrival times to avoid rush hour commutes, PPE for all judges and staff, proximity tags worn on lanyards that vibrate when closer than a metre to another person, ubiquitous sanitiser stations and isolated tasting areas with designated facilities.

Stanage continues, ‘Adapting the world’s largest wine competition to fit an unconventional venue, under vague and developing pandemic circumstances was definitely a challenge, but this experience has given us all hope that our industry may not be so far from getting back on its feet again.’

DWWA 2020 warehouse

Warehouses with wines for upcoming flights are located on each of the three floors. To make best use of space and keep clear organisation, deliveries with upcoming wine flights are delivered three to four times a week with more than 6,300 bottles per delivery.

Now over halfway through the competition, Co-Chair Sarah Jane Evans MW said, ‘This competition has been terrific. If you think about it, it’s four months since any of us really went anywhere or did anything and I think we all arrived with a certain amount of nervousness about how we were going to get here, what it was going to be like, and it’s an absolute, perfect biosphere.

‘It’s like everything has been thought about. We’ve got our hand sanitiser, our masks, my little bleeper which tells me when I am getting too close, and then the organisation is second to none. I think it’s been terrific.’

DWWA 2020 judging month: Watch the action live

How the DWWA judging works

On judging, Co-Chair Andrew Jefford added, ‘The social side is a bit greyer than usual, but on the judging side I would say, almost, it’s better than usual because it’s very easy to get really focused with your small panel which you’re working with over a number of days. We’re involved every single day of the panel so I really enjoy that close focus and that ability to concentrate and follow things through, so the judging side, if anything, has been even better.’

DWWA 2020 USA panel

Acting Regional Chair Andrew Jefford and judges Maggie Macpherson and Simon Thorpe MW (not pictured) taste on the USA & Central America panel

Rod Smith MW, returning Regional Chair for Provence, said of the competition, ‘I have judged all across the world from Shanghai to Dallas, but I always enjoy coming back to London for this because I think that the Decanter World Wine Awards is the most professionally organised of them that I’ve ever encountered.

‘It runs with a discussional aspect and wine for me is a conversational thing. It’s important to share opinions rather than just sitting there in isolation and giving a score – that’s not what wine’s about. Wine is about flavour and people and attitude, and Decanter manages to capture that the best I think.’

DWWA 2020 Rod Smith MW

Rod Smith MW, DWWA 2020 Regional Chair for Provence

Joining the 2020 panel of Regional Chairs is Paz Levinson, new Regional Chair for Argentina, Dominique Vrigneau, overseeing judging for Beaujolais, Southwest and Rest of France and Justin Knock MW, new Regional Chair for Australia.

Read more: DWWA 2020 Interview with Paz Levinson

DWWA 2020: Southern Italy wine regions to watch

Other new judges include:

Results for the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards will be published on Decanter.com this 22 September.

DWWA 2020 Riedel

DWWA 2020 is kindly sponsored by Riedel

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