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Judges defy delays to kick off DWWA judging week

The Decanter World Wine awards judging week kicked off in style this morning, as tasters overcame travelling setbacks to take their places at the judges’ tables.

Judges from across the globe descended on The Worx in London’s Parson’s Green to embark on a week of tasting, despite many having faced last minute flight cancellations thanks to Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull.

Jeannie Cho Lee MW, sitting on this year’s Burgundy panel, told decanter.com that a late flight cancellation had almost forced her to pull out of the awards.

‘Up until Wednesday, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it at all.’

‘I emailed Christelle [Guibert, Decanter tastings director] when my flight was cancelled. Luckily it was later reinstated and I made it here on time. The airport was packed.’

[Michael Schuster and Jeannie Cho Lee MW judging Burgundy on day 1]

With judges flying in from so many countries, there had been concerns that the competition might have to be postponed due to the number of tasters experiencing delays.

But the lifting of the UK flying ban on Tuesday signalled a change in fortune for the competition.

Canadian chair Tony Aspler, flying in from Toronto, said he had been fortunate to escape ‘the Icelandic Ashtray’.

‘Luckily my journey wasn’t affected, but the flight was very busy. A lot of people were trying to get on who hadn’t booked.’

Ferran Centelles, sommelier at El Bulli, had a similar experience.

‘I had no problem getting here, but I was held in a queue for one and a half hours at Stanstead. I didn’t get to my hotel until 2.30 this morning.’

Marina Gayan MW, Andres Rosberg, and Jo Ahearne MW all had their initial flights cancelled.

Not everyone’s delayed journey was negative experience, however.

John Radford, regional chair for Spain, described being stranded in Spain for a week as ‘a brilliant experience.’

‘It was an experience in the level of service of professionalism. Air Europa were marvellous.’

‘This could have been the worst week of my life but they could not do enough to help – it was just astonishing.’

Sarah Kemp, Decanter publishing director, said: ‘The great and the good have arrived, and what a difference a week can make.’

‘Last Monday a third of our 200 judges were overseas and British airspace closed. I’m thrilled at the extraordinary efforts the judges made to get here, and we only in the end lost a handful who were replaced by MWs.’

Bordeaux 2009: All the coverage

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Written by John Abbott

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