IWSC judging blog: Spain and Portugal show consistency across the board

Wine news

Fri 14 May 2021

By Kristen Dougall


From Spain, the wines showed great consistency, with at least one gold awarded in each category. This year Rioja received mixed reviews from our judges, with some wines expressing overt use of oak and lacking the fruit character our judges were hoping to see. However, those wines that did warrant a medal, were delicate and displayed well-balanced fresh fruit and oak characteristics. But it was the white Riojas that really surprised our judges, the younger vintages were of good quality, but it was the older whites that really stood out, their distinctive styles demanded medals.

The wines from Ribera del Duero surpassed our judges’ expectations. They showed a more approachable, elegant style with pure fruit expressions, polished tannins and well-managed oak. Moving over to the southwestern coast, the wines from Rías Baixas also demonstrated well-made wines. The top-scoring wines maintained their fresh acidity and mineral edge. The coolness from the Atlantic delivered some consistent examples of Albariño. From Rueda, our judges were treated to two distinctive styles, the old school, savoury style, and the modern, lean, fruit-forward wines, both styles were appreciated by our experts and delivered good results.

Ending on a sparkling note, the Cavas entered this year were good examples of well-made Cavas. They showed great typicity and were praised as ‘very credible’ wines. The Grand Reservas surprised our judges, there were a lot of medals awarded to these stand-out wines, including one gold, to a wine our judges praised for having a ‘style of its own’. They expressed that the gold winner could easily be compared to great sparkling wines from around the world, and it would hold its own.

When it came to the fortified category, our judges were pleased to see the consistent quality of the Amontillado Sherries. The varied styles that were entered showed the great standard of this category.


The Alentejo region of Portugal put forward some particularly good wines, with consistency in both quality and style. Many of the wines demonstrated good freshness and a slightly more rustic style.  The Vinho Verdes showed great quality and drinkability, with a few demonstrating good potential for ageing.

The overall standard of Portugal was solid, with many wines received medals, in particular for the whites wines, which showed good texture and uniqueness. An impressive haul of silvers, and a select few gold medals awarded to some outstanding wines.

The highlight this year for Portugal came from the fortified flights. Starting with the Colheita Ports, a wide variety entered this year and many of great quality and consistency. The older vintages were described as ‘really special’ by our judges and it was the 1957 vintage that stole the show. The judges praised its complexity and lively fruit that was maintained on the palate.

Read moreWhat to expect from the Northern Hemisphere wine results