Decanter World Wine Awards: "Every gold, or silver or bronze medal is really hard won"

As the winners are announced, one of the top judges explains how thousands of wines from across the world underwent rigorous blind-tasting

By Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes
Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 12:30 pm
Judging taking place at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards. Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave and Decanter
Judging taking place at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards. Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave and Decanter

I was very nervous to make the trip into London to see the judging take place of a very prestigious set of wine awards.

It was only a few months ago but you know how its been, don’t you?

I offered my apologies to the people who’d invited me to see the cogs whir and the wheels turn behind the Decanter World Wine Awards and decided to wait it out until next year.

Bottles of wine from Australia waiting to be blind-tasted by the judges at the Decanter World Wine Awards London 2021. Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave and Decanter

But that hesitancy on my part doesn’t mean I can’t bring you some of the results and an update.

The medal winners have now been revealed in the biggest-ever edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards, following two weeks of rigorous, Covid-secure judging.

Sarah Jane Evans, Master of Wine and DWWA 2021 Co-Chair, said of this year’s competition: “You know that this is something that’s been through a really rigorous judging process.

“We’re not playing at judging here.

Thousands of bottles are tasted in the Decanter World Wine Awards. Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave and Decanter

“This is blind tasting.

“We have absolutely no idea what the wines are and we’re tasting them not only in panels together where we have to each discuss and think about them deeply, but then they go up to regional chairs who are experts in those countries and also have a chance to step back and decide whether they really are the right gold medal winners.

"Then they go up to the co-chairs who re-taste and think again.

“So actually, that rigour, that independence is really, really a wonderful thing to have for a medal, so whether you get a bronze, or a silver or a gold you can know it’s been hard won.”

Now in its 18th year, DWWA is the world’s largest and most influential wine competition.

Which is why I was excited to be invited to see behind the scenes, but disappointed that it was just a train ride too far under the Covid circumstances!

In 2021, more than 160 expert judges, including 44 Masters of Wine and 11 Master Sommeliers, tasted a record 18,094 wines from 56 countries.

But the competition was tight, and the awards hard-gained.

Just 0.28 per cent of the total wines tasted at DWWA 2021 secured one of the 50 Best in Show medals.

There were also 179 platinum and 635 gold medals awarded, making up 0.99 per cent and 3.51 per cent respectively of the total wines tasted.

UK wineries received several top awards for a diverse range of wine styles.

Coming on the back of a very successful English Wine Week last month, its good to report that vintage English sparkling wines showed world-class quality in the 2021 awards.

The UK Best in Show medal went to Squerryes, Late Disgorged Brut 2011, a sparkling wine from Kent made with the classic champagne’ grape varieties: Chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

It was made in the same way as champagne too, with a secondary fermentation taking place inside the bottle.

DWWA judges said: ‘The drama and intensity of great traditional-method English sparkling wines is now widely recognised.

“What English wine creators are just beginning to grasp, though, is just how propitious their fine sparkling wines are for extended ageing, in large part due to the extraordinary, flavour-saturated acid profiles bequeathed by the long, luminous yet always fretful English summers.”

Ah, those English summers how we love them.

Platinum medals were awarded to two sparkling wines from Kent: Chapel Down Rosé Brut NV and Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2016.

Visit to view a full list of winners.

The Hot 50

This week the Bordeaux Wine Council (The CIVB) has revealed 50 wines chosen to make up its Hot 50 Bordeaux Selection for 2021.

Head Judge Richard Bampfield MW. said: “White, rosé and sparkling have been particularly exciting categories for the last few years and styles consumers may not typically associate with Bordeaux.

"The Hot 50 Selection 2021 reflects how Bordeaux wines are excelling in these categories.

"If you typically associate this region with only fine reds, it’s time for you to rediscover Bordeaux.”

The Hot 50 always has lots of wines I want to seek out and try.

You can too - go to

Jane Clare, via One Foot in the Grapes, is a programme provider for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and can help you learn about wine.