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Decanter World Wine Awards closes biggest judging week

The world’s greatest wine critics are pulling the final corks on the thousands of wines tasted at Decanter World Wine Awards.

Nearly 200 world-renowned writers, restaurateurs, sommeliers and winemakers have spent a week in London tasting their way through wines from every wine producing country of the world.

Sommeliers like Ferran Centelles from El Bulli in Barcelona, Isa Bal of the Fat Duck and Hamish Anderson from the Tate have rubbed shoulders with wine celebrities like Oz Clarke, Australian expert Huon Hooke, Sebastian Payne of the Wine Society, Jane MacQuitty of the Times, Alun Griffiths of Berry Bros and French critic Michel Bettane.

Chaired by Steven Spurrier, the Awards are also a roll-call of Decanter stalwarts: Andrew Jefford, who flew in from his new home in Adelaide, Stephen Brook, Beverley Blanning, Rosemary George, James Lawther, Ch’ng Poh Tiong and many others. Full list of regional chairs

The sixth edition of the Awards – now the world’s biggest wine competition – sees new regions opening up. New categories Slovenia and England both produced gold medals.

Robert Gorjac, regional chair for Slovenia said, ‘The first surprise was the number of entries. Last year we had 80, this year 137 wines. We had four golds in the sweet category – all wonderfully complex, elegant wines.’

Oz Clarke, judging the new English wine category, said he was delighted that his table found it so difficult to agree on the wines.

‘That was absolutely brilliant because it means that England hasn’t established itself yet. There’s no mainstream.’

They awarded gold medals to two ‘world class’ sparkling wines. ‘I would happily put them into a top Champagne category and say “taste these boys, see what you think”.’

In other regions, Huon Hooke said the Yarra Valley Chardonnays were ‘really fine, with an understated complexity. They’re exactly the sort of thing Australia is trying to produce: a more worldy style with a bit more finesse and better ageing potential.’

Judging New Zealand, Amy Hopkinson – the red winemaker for Jorge Ordoñez in Castilla y Leon in Spain – said ‘the Bordeaux blends from Hawkes Bay were excellent.’ She particularly remembered ‘a Syrah-dominant blend from there that we gave a gold to.’

In Argentina, chair Marina Gayan MW, and Phil Crozier, wine director at Gaucho restaurants, were bowled over by the quality of the Malbecs in the higher price categories.

‘It shows they are really getting the high quality right,’ Crozier said. ‘These are the sort of wines Argentina should be producing with the fruit that they have.’

Many judges commented on the organisation of the Awards. Bettane, formerly of the Revue du Vin de France and one of the world’s most respected critics, said, ‘It’s the quality of the organisation at the DWWA that’s so impressive. The tables are well set out, and the wine is always served at the perfect temperature. These are optimum tasting conditions.’

Full results and the exact number of entries will be announced at the Decanter stand on the opening day of the London Wine Trade Fair on 12 May.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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