On 15 November, wine and spirits luminaries – including Richard Watling, Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, Sir George Fistonich of New Zealand’s Villa Maria, Leonardo Frescobaldi of the great Tuscan wine producer and Chris Blandy of the Madeira house – joined some 450 international guests for the dinner and awards ceremony at the Guildhall.
Watch the IWSC 2017 Banquet hilights HERE.
The IWSC, founded nearly 50 years ago, is the oldest and most prestigious wine and spirits competition in the world. It is held in high esteem by the hundreds of drinks professionals - winemakers, distillers, master blenders, retailers and owners – who dined in the Guildhall until midnight and then continued the party into the small hours at the ultra-fashionable hotel The Ned.
“To win at the IWSC is a massive honour,” said Sukhinder Singh of the Whisky Exchange, holding his trophy for Independent Spirits Retailer of the Year. This is the Whisky Exchange’s second big win at the IWSC, having been awarded Retailer of the Year in 2015.
Andrew Weeber of Gusbourne Estate, who was awarded the English Wine Producer of the Year trophy which was sponsored by the Vintner’s Company, added, “it’s a prestigious competition. To win the trophy is a vindication of how hard we work – you have to be humble and modest as a farmer because you can’t control nature, but we are delighted to have been honoured with a trophy.”
The IWSC is judged throughout the year and the Awards Banquet is the culmination of hundreds of different tastings of thousands of wines and spirits from more than 90 countries – the biggest reach of any wine competition.
Kanonkop Wine Estate’s Abrie Beeslaar was presented with the Winemaker of the Year trophy, sponsored by Amazon, while Distiller of the Year was won by the Taiwanese Kavalan Distillery.
Glenmorangie’s Gillian MacDonald presented the Lifetime Achievement Award – which included a superb engraved decanter from Asprey, the iconic British luxury house – to Richard Paterson, master distiller, who is marking five decades in the Scotch whisky industry. Meanwhile, Purity Vodka’s master blender Thomas Kuuttanen took the Vodka Trophy, as well as the award for Vodka Producer of the Year.
The award line-up has grown and adapted this year, with a new English Sparkling Wine Trophy, a Chinese Wine Producer of the Year, and an Organic Wine Trophy, among others.
It might seem that the Chinese wine industry is in its infancy, but the winner of the Jing Song Chinese Wine Producer of the Year trophy, the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company of Yantai, is a century older than many on the list. Founded in 1892, it has an illustrious history, but its win was by no means a pushover: China is now recognised as a producer of world-class wines.
Britain is another country with a long – but only recently-recognised – winemaking pedigree. To reflect the fact English wines now take their place alongside the world’s finest sparkling wines, the IWSC’s inaugural English Sparkling Wine Trophy has its first showing this year. The award, sponsored by Waitrose, was won by Wiston Estate, a 2428-hectare (6000-acre) estate, with 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of vineyard, in the South Downs.
In all, over 90 trophies were presented. From UK Gin Producer of the Year (Atom Brands, makers of Bathtub Gin) and Brandy Producer of the Year (KWV), to US Wine Producer (Napa’s Black Stallion), Argentine Wine Producer (Viñalba), and representatives of every wine and spirit producing country of the world, the IWSC celebrated a kaleidoscope of world wine and spirits talent. As Andrew Weeber said, “The IWSC takes the pulse of the whole industry”.