IWSC 2024 Wine Judging. Judges' deliberations on South American wines

Wine news

Wed 8 May 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

Our Wine Judges spent two days tasting and scoring wines from across the regions of South America. With several separate countries to cover, our panels were tasked with judging wines from a wide range of styles and expressions within South America. The panels were co-chaired by IWSC Wine Judging Committee members Alistair Cooper MW, a specialist in South American wines and Alex Hunt MW, Berkmann Wine Cellar's Purchasing Director.

On the whole our judges were impressed with the offerings from South America. “The regionality and expression on show were superb over the two days of judging. I was particularly impressed with the range of wines from some of the smaller regions. Year-on-year there have been improvements from all across South America,” shared Alistair Cooper MW.

"The best reds seemed to achieve freshness, complexity and harmony effortlessly, just as purity and texture separated the best whites from the pack," added Alex Hunt MW.

One of the highlights for several of the judges was the Malbecs on offer, with wines of this variety winning 3 gold medals. The panels were pleased with the overall impressions of the Malbecs, noting that “the quality level of Malbecs has been exceptionally good this year” and praising the "strong regional character on show”. One of the panels also drew attention to the improvement from last year for the Argentinian Malbecs, pointing out that “the tannins across the flights were handled much more gently and with finesse than Malbecs had in years past, showing a more deft touch in extraction.

A real highlight for me was tasting various Malbecs showing regionality across Argentina - in particular the Gualtallary flight which really showcased typicity from the region,” added one judge.

This year’s Cabernet Franc entries also performed admirably, with Alistair Cooper MW keen to emphasise how impressed he was with one particular Cabernet Franc from Argentina. "The Cabernet Francs showed real promise and a varietal to keep an eye on its development in the coming years," expressed one of the panels. This was reflected in the results with two Argentinian Cabernet Francs being awarded gold medals and judges praising the “well-defined varietal characteristics”.

Co-chair Alex Hunt MW echoed these thoughts. "This tasting confirmed what many suspect: that Cabernet Franc has a very bright future in Argentina. When diligently farmed, it can produce a thrilling combination of succulence and poise."

The judges appreciated the consistency on show, highlighting in particular the Sauvignon Blancs. “It was reassuring to see that the Sauvignon Blanc flight was incredibly consistent, regardless of their sub-region. Those where there was subtle complexity were rewarded,” shared the panel. Alex Hunt MW agreed with this opinion, underlining the quality of the Sauvignon Blanc from Chile's Casablanca and San Antonio regions, "the best wines showed that this sometimes one-note variety can gain real dimension and subtlety when grown in the right spot."

The whites they have to offer outside of Torrontes were also pretty eye opening with some interesting Pinot Grigios and white Malbecs that showed there’s more to Argentina than meets the eye,” shared our judges.

The panels were also keen to highlight their appreciation for the range of styles and expressions they tasted. “There was a beautiful range of grapes particularly in Brazil, and some skilled winemaking on display with grapes as diverse as Arinarnoa and Pinot Noir”.

"I was happily surprised to encounter two wines from Bolivia – and even more happy when one in particular turned out to be excellent! It was a really intelligent piece of winemaking in a well-chosen style,"
shared Alex Hunt MW. 

Those where winemakers had gone for a more experimental style, but executed well - for example carbonic maceration on Tannat - were pleasing to see,” expressed the judges, praising the experimentality on display.

On the whole our judges saw improvements in quality across all regions of South America, and were impressed with the standard on display. “We saw more quality and a visible step-up in the wines which were from smaller single regions. The standard of the day overall was very good and we noted that there were very few faulty/very disappointing wines today, which was very promising.”

"We know that South America is capable of delivering deliciousness and value across multiple regions and grape varieties," agrees Alex Hunt MW. "The trends that are now emerging are all positive: a focus on vineyard expression and sub-regional character; diminishing reliance on oak, at least among producers confident enough in their farming; greater diversity of white wines, including intriguing blends."

Stay tuned for further judges’ deliberations and the results announcement on 20 May.