Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2019 judging week begins

Almost 60 wine professionals from 14 different countries have gathered in Hong Kong for Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2019 judging week.

This morning, Tuesday 3 September, saw the start of Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2019 judging week, which runs from 3 – 6 September.

During the week a total of 3,183 wines from 34 countries will be judged by 56 wine experts, including Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers from across Asia.


Follow live coverage of DAWA 2019 juding week via our social media wall


This year we welcome new Vice Chair Hiroshi Ishida alongside returning Vice Chairs Jeannie Cho Lee MWSarah Jane Evans MWLi DemeiAndrew Jefford, Michael Hill-Smith MW and Poh Tiong Ch’ng to oversee the 2019 competition.

Hiroshi Ishida

New Vice Chair Hiroshi Ishida discussing with his panel

We also welcome six new judges to DAWA 2019 including:


See all DAWA 2019 judges’ profiles here


Opening speeches were made by three of this year’s Vice Chairs, beginning with Jeannie Cho Lee MW who commented on the Asian wine market:

“It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces who have been coming back every year. What’s really wonderful and great about this week is that we can really have the opportunity to interact with each other and learn from each other – we’re from different markets in Asia.

This is a rare opportunity to have over 50 top wine professionals in the room, from this region. I hope that you enjoy the process and the evolution I’ve seen over the last 25 years living in Hong Kong, but really the last 10 years where wine has been tremendous, and one of the manifestations of this success is that we have now, in mainland China alone, have four Masters of Wine.

This is a very dynamic region where we are changing and we are really elevating the standards thanks to all of you in this room.”

Jeannie Cho Lee MW

Jeannie Cho Lee MW and Hiroshi Ishida discuss wine judging at this year’s competition

Vice Chair Li Demei, who has been judging at DAWA since 2014, continued with words of advice to the judges:

“I judge the wine on the behalf of the consumer, not just from my personal preference. Judge according to the quality of the wine, the typicity, the style, and if you find a wine really good, don’t be afraid to give it a high score.”

Li Demei

Li Demei judging at DAWA 2019

In an interview earlier this morning with Vice Chair Poh Tiong Ch’ng, Poh commented on what he is looking for during judging week, stating:

“Wines that reflect a certain instinctive sense of harmony. It doesn’t have to be a powerful wine – it may be – but just something harmonious, something which is always balanced. I ask myself, how come that DNA is missing [in wines]? I hope I find it – I do find it – but it’s always such a small minority of winemakers who display that kind of subtlety. I hope I am luck this year.”

Poh Tiong Ch’ng

Poh Tiong Ch’ng and Andrew Jefford at the DAWA 2019 welcome reception

Michael Hill-Smith MW – wine producer, international wine judge, wine consultant and the first Australian to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination in 1988 – concluded the Vice Chair speeches with a tribute to the late Gerard Basset. He expressed:

“There are people who are respected in our industry and there are people who are beloved. The thing about Gerard is he was respected and beloved in a way that was very unique. He was a terrific judge of wine and I think we should keep that in mind.

Gerard was very open, open to new wines, open to learning. He loved coming here and judging with you all. He loved Hong Kong and I think he would be very proud to see everyone here and see how far the competition has come.”

Michael Hill-Smith MW

Michael Hill-Smith MW making his opening speech during judging week

How the wines are tasted:

Wines are organised for tasting by country, region, colour, grape, style and vintage to ensure that they are judged in flights against their peers.

Medal categories correspond to the 100-point scoring system used by Decanter and many top wine critics around the world.

After competing for Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals, the Gold medalists are re-categorised by grape or style and re-tasted by a panel consisting of Regional Chairs and Vice Chairs. The wines are judged according to their origin and the judges will be aware of countries, regions, sub-regions, grapes, vintage and price bands.

Best in Show is the ultimate accolade at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards. In a separate tasting, the Vice Chairs will select the ‘Best in Show’ from the Platinum winners. The Vice-Chairs will be aware of the origins, grapes and vintages.


Results from DAWA 2019 will be available to the public from 20 September


Asian consumers will have the chance to try DAWA 2019 award-winning wines at several upcoming events including the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter on 16 November and Decanter Seoul on 22 November.

DAWA 2019 is kindly sponsored by:

Aqua Panna