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Reflections on DWWA 2023, in its 20th year

Celebrating two decades of Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), the difference between where we are now and where we were then is justifiably scale. The exacting evaluation process for quality, however, carried out by a network of the world’s leading wine experts, remains fundamental – and 20 years on, the results continue to impress.

Was it the coronation effect? St Edward’s crown was placed on King Charles III’s head in the middle of our Best in Show tastings in early May this year.

Or perhaps it was the lure of our glitzy 20th anniversary party – the very first DWWA having taken place in 2004. Maybe the simple joy of travelling again after the years of Covid-induced pandemic lockdowns?

Whatever the truth, we were able to welcome back judges from the UK and overseas at full capacity for the Decanter World Wine Awards 2023 (101 out of our full judging complement of 236 travelled from abroad).

Most commented on the pleasure of being able to mix, mingle and talk freely again around our tasting sessions. Judging, in short, has never been more of a pleasure – and I’m fortunate enough to have judged in every single edition of our competition.

Our 2023 total of wines tasted reached exactly 18,250, very similar to last year’s tally.

Was there a small dip in quality due to Europe’s often small and difficult 2021 vintage? Perhaps: more wines went home with no medal or with a Bronze medal (8,165) than last year, whereas the Silver medal total saw a slight reduction to 5,604, equating to 30.71% of all entries tasted.

Gold medals, by contrast (excluding those that went on to earn Platinum or Best in Show awards), were up this year (705 or 3.86% of all tasted, compared to 678 and 3.72% last year), though Platinum medals were down (just 125 medals or 0.68% of all entries). Compound these two elite categories, Gold and Platinum – Platinum medals, remember, are chosen from among the Golds – and there was a drop of 11 wines overall compared to last year.

Spotlight on value

We’ve made a significant change to the way in which we present our results this year. The four Co-Chairs have selected a Top 10 Value Gold list from among all of 2023’s 95 Value Gold medal winners; Value, remember, means a retail price of £14.99 or less.

We go to great lengths to check these prices with suppliers prior to publication, but the months that pass between wines being entered by submitters, evaluated in the competition itself (late April to early May), and the award winners appearing in this supplement mean that market conditions and price rises in general (far from insignificant in 2023) can result in those prices creeping above the level at which the wines were originally judged.

In 2023, the Value Golds represented 13.48% of the 705 Gold medals awarded. We’ve always accepted that a Value Gold medal will not be as complex, layered or refined as a Gold medal costing, say, £50 or more; what we’re looking for here are outstanding fruit qualities, exuberant regional style and overall deliciousness.

The Top 10 Value Golds are now listed separately from our top 50 Best in Show wines  – where absolute quality, refinement and finesse remain the desiderata.

Scores, as always, need to be considered in the context of our overall entry cohort – and note, once again, the restrained tallies of just 3.86% of Gold medals and just 0.27% of Platinum.

Highest achievement

Last year’s trend of improved southern hemisphere performance was repeated this year, perhaps reflecting the wine friendliness of the unusual triple La Niña weather pattern (meaning cooler, wetter weather conditions) which has prevailed between 2020 and 2022.

Australia was this year’s Best in Show leader, with 10 selected entries altogether (five reds, four whites and a fortified wine), complemented by two triumphant entries apiece for Argentina and South Africa and one each for Chile and New Zealand.

In the northern hemisphere, France and Spain tied on eight Best in Show entries each, with Italy just behind on seven. Among our other Best in Shows, Greece, and specifically Santorini, was back this year with two wines (there were none last year), while Serbia made our Best in Show selection for the first time with a classy Graševina (Grašac, locally).

There were four Rieslings to choose from; this year’s Cabernet Franc came from Tuscany and not Stellenbosch or Mendoza; Ribeiro, Rías Baixas and Bierzo spiced up the Spanish cohort; and we welcomed our first ever Pessac-Léognan wine into the top 50.

Among individual producers, a few names deserve mentioning. Yes, Lustau has made it five out of six Best in Show appearances for wines in its VORS series (we are back to the Oloroso this year); Château de Meursault’s Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epenots made a third appearance (the 2021 vintage succeeding the 2017 and the 2019); and Albet y Noya’s El Corral Cremat Brut 2012 won inclusion for the second year running.

The fact that our single Best in Show rosé this year turned out to be Château d’Esclans 2021 is also a remarkable feat for Sacha Lichine’s pioneering wine, given that it was selected over three tasting stages from 109 Côtes de Provence rosé entries.

Search all DWWA 2023 results

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