As the IWSC opens its doors for its 2021 judging days, we are delighted to welcome back some familiar faces to our judging panels, as well as some new experts to the tasting room for our Northern Hemisphere wine judging. The safety of our judges and staff is always of the utmost importance and, with this being the IWSC’s second year hosting its tastings in a global pandemic we have become seasoned social distancers.
Throughout the first two days of judging, our experts tasted through nearly one thousand wines from the UK and France, with over 80% of these wines receiving medals. After such a challenging year, it was encouraging to see that even in a global pandemic good wine does not falter.
Our judges were so greatly impressed with the wines they tasted from the UK, that they awarded medals to nearly 80% of the wines. The IWSC has seen sparkling wines from England enjoy much-deserved recognition, as the wines get better and better each year. The improved quality was confirmed by our experts, as they did not shy away from awarding medals, with English sparkling wines receiving a whopping 79% of medals. It was interesting to see that there was a reversal of the norm, with the recent warmer vintages showing a welcomed richness - the judges praised the consistency of these wines. Over the years, English sparkling has seen highs and lows, but our judges were really excited by how coherent the quality was, particularly the wines from the 2018 vintage.
Jumping across the Channel to the sparklings found in France, namely Champagne, our judges were also very impressed with this category proclaiming it as a real highlight of 2021. The wines were praised for their extra-ripeness seen from the more mature vintages. The judges were encouraged by the styles that showed a little more oak than they were expecting, the skilful hand of the winemakers ensured the additional use of oak was well integrated.
Another region of France that delighted our experts were the wines from the Rhône Valley. There were clear stylistic differences between the wines that showed real purity, precise and juicy fruit, and those that were more of a traditional, garrigue, Rhône-flavour profile. Even the whites from Northern Rhône did not disappoint, they showed great potential even from smaller appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Péray.
Languedoc also had a solid performance, showing immense diversity of style and grape varieties. From fizz to orange and robust reds. However, it was the white wines from Picpoul de Pinet that surprised our experts, the wines had so much ripeness, tropical fruit and freshness on the palate.
Alsace was also a region of note, with the judges remarking that the Gewürztraminers were “exceptional”, greatly concentrated and hedonistic. But it was the often-underrated grape variety, Pinot Blanc, that surprised our judges the most. The wines were of a really outstanding quality, with some judges describing them as being as good as some of the best Pinot Biancos from Alto Adige, Italy.
Our Northern Hemisphere judging days will continue this week and into the next, with many more wines to be tasted by our panels, consisting of leading sommeliers, Master of Wines and Master Sommeliers from across the globe. We will be sharing all the trends and highlights live from our tasting room, so make sure you are following us on social media, and following #IWSCjudging, as well as subscribing to our newsletter to receive a round-up of updates from the judging.