Exceptional diversity and interest were once again the buzzwords following our third Wines of the Year tasting, in which a remarkable 87% of entries scored an average of 90 points or above.
‘This has become my favourite event in the calendar,’ said Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘There’s nothing more exciting than being presented with a roomful of extraordinary bottles recommended by fellow Decanter experts.’
Dirceu Vianna Junior MW agreed: ‘I’ve been judging for Decanter for 10 years and I’ve never enjoyed such an exceptionally high quality but varied array of wines from around the world that all had a real sense of place.’
As one of the first comprehensive two-day tastings to be held at Decanter’s new Canary Wharf HQ, it was fitting that 117 fascinating wines were put forward – what better way to help christen the new facility?
Unlike other publications that rank the year’s highest-scorers from tastings, our annual showcase highlights the wines that really made an impression on our experts, for their classicism, value or quirkiness.
We asked Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Chairs, key contributors and Decanter staff to name the wines they most enjoyed over the past 12 months under the categories of Classic (a premium, textbook wine style), Offbeat (unusual grape, winemaking method, region or unearthed gem) and Value (a wine that punches above its weight at £25 or under). Each wine’s category and their champion are included in the tasting notes to follow.
Of the 23 countries that featured in our Wines of the Year, France was the most-represented with 29 wines, followed by Italy (17) and Spain (14). Australia led the New World charge with nine wines, with South Africa (seven) and New Zealand (six) close behind.
The wines were tasted blind, in late October, and scored out of 100, though their respective Classic, Offbeat and Value categories were not disclosed. ‘The great value in this is that we are not prejudiced by either big-name expensive wines or the humble brands,’ explained Evans. ‘The cream rises to the top.
‘So I was encouraged to see that in the Outstanding category, for example, we rewarded a £175 bottle of Champagne, but also a £20 Australian Chardonnay.’
But the judges were most enthralled by unusual wine styles and grapes – 60 different varieties were represented among our 117 entries. Evans highlighted a ‘beautifully complex’ Ribolla and the ‘wonderful’ Malbec from Washington, while Vianna was impressed by the Plyto from Greece, Bequignol from Argentina and Areni Noir from Armenia. ‘Some of these things are out of my comfort zone,’ he admitted, ‘but that’s a good thing! To be a wine lover you need to expand your palate and many of the wines we’ve recommended here will help you do that.’
Evans agreed: ‘It shows us how extremely diverse the wonderful world of wine is and just how much variety of style and price there is to choose from.
‘It also reinforces that we need to branch out from our safe zones,’ she urged. ‘There are some lovely discoveries here – let’s celebrate and enjoy them. And what better time than the festive season to be more adventurous!’
Thank you to the following people who contributed their recommendations: Vahan Agulian, Sarah Ahmed, Jane Anson, Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, Amanda Barnes, Paolo Basso, Richard Baudains, Jim Budd, Bernard Burtschy, James Button, Bob Campbell MW, Ferran Centelles, Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Alistair Cooper MW, Markus del Monego MW, Natalie Earl, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Simon Field MW, Michael Garner, Tina Gellie, Rebecca Gibb MW, Caroline Gilby MW, Michael Hill Smith MW, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, Jane Hunt MW, Andrew Jefford, Anne Krebiehl MW, James Lawther MW, Nico Manessis, Caro Maurer MW, Elin McCoy, Fiona McDonald, Thierry Meyer, Michaela Morris, Barbara Philip MW, Anthony Rose, Ronan Sayburn MS, Julie Sheppard, Stephen Skelton MW, Rod Smith MW, Steven Spurrier, Matt Walls and Amy Wislocki.