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Meet the Judges: David Allen MW

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts choosing this year's best wines.

David Allen MW has worked in many aspects of the off-trade and is currently Coe Vintners’ Fine Wine Manager. In this interview, read about expertise, his wine tip for 2013 and his most memorable wine moment of the last 10 years…

Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?

I’m a London boy. I grew up in South London, live in South East London and work in Redbridge in Essex. It’s a city with such a diverse wine culture, and it is easy to forget how incredibly fortunate we are in that.

Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?

I started working for Oddbins in my college holidays and got hooked on wine. After graduating I spent 14 exciting years working for Oddbins, witnessing the rise of Australian, Chilean, and even a fabulous range of Greek wines. I saw most aspects of the company as I worked in retail, marketing and logistics. I became the Fine Wine Manager at Coe Vintners in 2010, the same year as passing the MW.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a Fine Wine Manager?

What I’ve most enjoyed discovering as Coe Vintners’ Fine Wine Manager is how many superb people we work with. The UK’s wine service industry is packed with knowledgeable, dedicated, enthusiastic people – it’s inspiring and frequently humbling to work with them!

Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?

I have met numerous wonderful people throughout my career, but the person who has had the biggest influence is Susan Hodge, the first Branch Manager I worked for. She instilled in me a wonder and a fascination in the amazing variety of fabulous wines available, which is still with me today. Without this influence, my life may well have taken a different course, so I’m very grateful to her.

What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?

Being asked to pick out my most memorable wine moments from the last 10 years makes me realise quite how fortunate I am, as I can think of hundreds of great bottles, dinners, occasions and estates – it’s very difficult to narrow them down. One occasion that does stand out, however, was an evening at home, celebrating both our wedding anniversary and the end of my MW studies – with my wife I drank Dom Perignon 1996 and Château d’Yquem 1988 – they were both completely breath-taking.

Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?

2009 clarets – these are delightful wines with freshness and wonderful fruit purity. So many superb wines from this adorable vintage are still available, and many at prices very close to their release prices. Some of the Cru Bourgeois wines are currently drinking very well, and in a few years I think many of us will look back and wish we had bought more of these now.

Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?

Muscat Herrenweg 2007 from Domaine Zind Humbrecht is the wine I’ve bought to drink recently – considering its depth and the quality of its fruit expression, it’s amazing for its price.

What’s your desert island wine?

Unquestionably Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 1995 – it was the wine we were drinking when I plucked up the courage to first ask out the fabulous woman who is now my wife.

What single piece of advice do you have for new people just starting out in wine?

Always be honest, be receptive to ideas and information, and ask lots of questions. [The wine industry] is a wonderful industry full of talented, gifted, generous people, so many of whom are willing to share their time, views and aspirations – you will never be bored, frequently challenged, and you will never stop learning.

When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?

The expression of character and individuality. Great wines need to be more than just technically correct alcoholic beverages. A great wine may even possess minor imperfections, but it must have character, stand out from its peers and speak proudly about the vision of its producer and the place that created it.

Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?

I look forward to tasting as part of a team, seeing other people’s standpoints and hopefully broadening my own as a result.

The Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 is now open for entries. Click here for more information and to enter wines into this year’s competition.

Written by Decanter.com

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