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DFWE: A grand day out in London

Decanter’s magazine editor reports from its flagship UK tasting, where guests enjoyed premium wines, mingled with the names behind the labels and attended exclusive masterclasses.

A sunny Saturday in November, a luxury venue at The Landmark Hotel, more than 100 of the world’s best wine estates, 13,000 Riedel wine glasses, and more than 1,000 wine lovers. The recipe for another unforgettable Decanter tasting, for guests and producers alike.

Grand Tasting

The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter (DFWE) draws top names from around the world, who jump at the chance to showcase their superb wines to a highly enthusiastic audience. Across two rooms, a stream of wine lovers, some of whom had started queuing long before the event’s start time, filled the venue to near capacity, keen to taste wines across all styles from sparkling and dry white, to red, sweet and fortified – from respected names across the globe. Classic and emerging regions jostled for space, with guests tasting the flagship wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy estates, Rioja, Tuscany, California and beyond, next to discoveries from leading names in Greece, Ukraine, Moldova and the UK.

Meanwhile, a selection of 56 award-winning wines from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) were poured at a dedicated table, a chance to taste widely among the very top performers from more than 18,500 wines entered. It was a highly international and varied set of wines, with offerings from countries ranging from Switzerland, Austria, Portugal and Serbia to New Zealand, Israel and South Africa.

Lobby of The Landmark hotel in London

Credit: Ellen Richardson

Cellar Collection

Now in its 26th year, the DFWE has a loyal following, with some readers returning year in, year out to taste the latest releases from their favourite wine labels. But the event continues to improve and evolve. In addition to the Grand Tasting, the Cellar Collection Room made a second appearance after enjoying huge success in 2022, its inaugural year. Tickets to the Cellar Collection room, which opened for one session in the morning and then another in the afternoon, were strictly limited and were available to purchase in addition to the Grand Tasting tickets.

Cellar Collection tickets offered the opportunity to experience a deep dive into vertical tastings from 20 hand-picked estates from the Old and New World. Each winery poured three back vintages of its flagship cuvée, including one library vintage of around 10 years of age, or in many cases older, to demonstrate the evolution of the wine.

Not only was it a rare opportunity to taste library vintages of some of the world’s finest wines; it was also a chance to meet the people behind these bottles, and have them introduce their own wines in person.

Each guest was issued with a Cellar Collection passport, gaining a stamp at each table visited. And it really was a world tour – with the New World represented by top names including those in California (Trefethen), Argentina (Catena, Achaval Ferrer) and Chile (Seña). Back on European soil, wines were poured by Bordeaux estates including Châteaux Beychevelle, Léoville Las Cases, Brane-Cantenac and Suduiraut, Chapoutier in the Rhône, Fontodi, Allegrini, Ferrari and Donnafugata among the Italian contingent, and Duval Leroy representing Champagne. These were just some of the top names pouring their precious older vintages for guests.

Hand holding tasting notes booklet and a pen

Credit: Ellen Richardson

Masterclasses and Discovery Tastings

In addition to the main tasting rooms, guests could purchase tickets to a series of exclusive tutored tastings. Three 90-minute masterclasses focused respectively on the wines of Burgundy’s Corton Grand Cru (introduced by Charles Curtis MW), Tuscany’s famous Ornellaia estate, and Bordeaux’s JP Moueix portfolio. Meanwhile, the shorter Discovery Tasting sessions put the spotlight on top Chilean name Santa Rita’s Casa Real, Rioja’s Remírez de Ganuza, and South African pioneering estates including Klein Constantia, Journey’s End and Ken Forrester.

Another star-studded year, featuring stellar names, stellar wines, old favourites and new discoveries. Look out for a set of pictorial highlights from the event shortly – if you attended, keep an eye out for our photo gallery as you may be featured. If you missed the event, we’ll be doing it again next November, and will host an Italy-themed tasting experience even sooner, next February, both at The Landmark London. Or for those based on the other side of the Atlantic, we host our third DFWE  New York in June 2024.


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