How would it all go? We weren’t sure. Wine producers around the world have endured a uniquely difficult set of circumstances since last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards: fire and frost; the loss of both tourist trade and the restaurant trade; tariffs, closed frontiers and (for the UK market) piles of new paperwork.
The continuing Covid-19 pandemic made scheduling our competition a leap in the dark. We settled for the second part of June, which meant that most of our overseas judges, sadly, couldn’t join us this year – though we look forward to welcoming them back in 2022.
But the wines poured in: 18,094 in the end, an all-time record. Everyone working for the DWWA, whether behind the scenes or in front of the glasses, is honoured by the trust and confidence placed in our competition by the world’s wine creators. We welcomed entries from no fewer than 56 countries in 2021.
Roll call of honour
Among the national entries, Spain enjoyed a particularly strong year, more than doubling its share of our top 50 Best in Show Platinum winners from four to nine, with 20 further Platinums and 63 Gold medals.
Italy, too, performed very strongly, doubling its own 2020 Gold medal tally to 146 wines, notably with an outstanding Tuscan performance from Brunello di Montalcino and its first-ever Prosecco Best in Show Platinum.
With 15 Best in Show Platinum winners, though, France retained the biggest share of the top 50, comfortably exceeding its 2020 total of 12.
At the other end of the scale, wines from Japan won two Platinum medals and four Golds, while Russia, too, won a Platinum medal and Ukraine its first two Golds. China’s 156-strong entry won Platinum (for a Chardonnay) as well as Golds for wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Marselan and Petit Manseng.
It wouldn’t be the DWWA, of course, without the usual shocks, surprises and revelations that our rigorous blind-tasting method throws up. Look out, in particular, for Best in Show appearances from a Piedirosso red wine from Vesuvio, a Timorasso white from Colli Tortonesi, a Swiss Savagnin (under its local name Heida) and a Savoyard Roussanne (the only variety permitted for the Chignin-Bergeron appellation).
Priorat stormed the Best in Show category with two selections this year, both illustrating how well Cariñena can perform in the region’s llicorella soils.
We were delighted, too, to see Portuguese wines from Dão and from Monção e Melgaço in the Vinho Verde zone, from Spain’s Pago Aylés (Aragón), Ribeira Sacra and Rías Baixas, from South Africa’s Cederberg and from Chile’s Itata all making it through to Best in Show.
It was a great year for Chardonnay lovers, with no fewer than six varietal wines in our Best in Show: a perfect little blind-tasting collection from Canada’s Niagara, Germany’s Baden, New Zealand’s Nelson and Australia’s Margaret River – not forgetting the grand cru Chablis and grand cru blanc de blancs Champagne. A great vin jaune, an exuberant Hungarian Bull’s Blood and a wonderfully complex white-wine blend from Italy’s Collio all add to the intrigue.
Platinum & Best In Show
When you note the 97-point scores for our Platinum and Best in Show Platinum wines, remember that these relate to our competition as a whole – and that only 0.28% of entries this year reached Best in Show, and just 0.99% Platinum.
Gold Medals (95-96pts) account for just 3.51% of our entries. These are the best of the best.
Remember, too, that a Value medal has special meaning. Any wine claiming a retail value of £14.99 or less is eligible for our Value categories (we check prices where we are able). No wine at this price will aspire to complexity of the sort that a boutique or icon wine above £50 should display. They can, though, be outstanding for their price. That’s what our Value awards recognise.
There are two changes this year. We no longer award a Seal of Approval for ‘acceptable and simple’ wines scoring 83-85pts, so a Bronze medal with 86pts is now the first rung on our Awards ladder. We have also changed price bands to reflect as accurately as possible consumer perceptions about price and value.