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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
20 May 2008

The International Wine Challenge and the even longer-running UK-based International Wine & Spirit Competition have both just announced this year's results, presumably to coincide with the start of this year's London International Wine Fair at Excel, which runs from today until the last screwcap is unscrewed late on Thursay. The results of the Decanter World Wine Awards are available only to the wine trade until 1 Sep. More details here.


Here's what the International Wine Challenge publicist has to say:


The 2008 International Wine Challenge (IWC) announces its 25th annual medal awards today.  Over the course of the last quarter century it has established itself as the pre-eminent arbiter of wine quality. This year 267 Golds, 1,257 Silvers and 2,140 Bronzes were awarded, making a total of 3,664 medals, up 14.4% on last year. There is no quota for medals awarded.


The improved results confirmed the consensus following the nine days of judging: that the quality of submissions had risen significantly. This was further supported by Co-Chairman and faults specialist Sam Harrop MW's sensory analysis (of every wine in the competition) in which he discovered total faults were down 10% on 2007.


Submissions were received from 1,435 companies, marking an increase of 15% on the previous year. With a decrease in the numbers of wines entered per submitter and the improved medal results, it is clear that companies are paying even greater attention to their submissions and concentrating on wines of higher quality.


The top three medal winning nations this year are France (696), Australia (587) and Spain (381). France scooped the most medals with a total of 696. Australia may well have fewer medals, but it is gaining ground, picking up an extra 101 medals from the previous year. Other countries with notable increases were Austria (up 58%), Canada (up 128%) and the Eastern European Countries of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.


This year the quality of the best French wines really shone through. France took home the most Golds, 60 this year up from 48 in 2007, representing an increase of 36%. As it did last year, Australia came second in the Gold medal tally (48 up from 39 last year). Portugal again came third with 30 Gold medals. New Zealand's Gold medal performance was also impressive this year. It was awarded 22 Gold medals, as opposed to 15 in 2007 (an increase of 46.7%). Argentina has been tipped as the one to watch as it doubled its Gold medal haul from 4 in 2007 to 8 in 2008.


This year wines were received from 39 countries, more than ever before. Countries claiming their first awards in 2008 were: Brazil (17), Denmark (2), India (4), Malta (6), Tunisia (1), Turkey (5) and Ukraine (1).


English wines continue to show improved form (10 medals in 2005, 16 medals in 2006, 21 in 2007 and 22 in 2008). This year's single UK Gold goes to Balfour Brut Rosé 2004 the Kent vineyard's sparkling wine [see my enthusiastic endorsement of this wine here – JR]. Despite the exceptionally wet weather last year, the 2007 vintage still proved to be of good quality with 7 Bronze medals awarded.


The judges were not only impressed by the high quality of entries but also by the consistency of winemaking as indicated by the numbers of wines winning "follow-on" Golds. For example, Beaune Clos Des Mouches Premier Cru [which colour, I wonder? – JR] won a Gold medal in 2007 for its 2005 vintage and again this year for its 2006 vintage. 


Japanese sake entries increased exponentially last year with 228 entries. This year as a result of the marketing success achieved for the medal winners, entries increased further to 313. Of these 149 were awarded medals including 13 Golds. Japanese grape wines were also entered for the first time with 2 Bronze medals achieved.


UKconsumers will have plenty of opportunity to pick an award winning wine. Last year's IWC Supermarket of the Year Tesco claimed the most medals (151) while Waitrose currently stocks the most Gold (15) and Silver (50) medals. Marks & Spencer (with 155) and Sainsbury's (with 225 medal-winning and commended wines) will also see their shelves heaving with rigorously judged bottles.


This year's results were announced at the London International Wine Fair by famed footballer David Ginola who entered his first wines from the Coste Brulade domain. An excellent debut performance, all three wines picked up awards with the Coste Brulade rosé picking up a coveted Silver. David Ginola was not the only well-known person to have entered his wines and walk away with an award, others included film director Francis Ford Coppola, golfer Ernie Els, singer Cliff Richard and motoring broadcaster Quentin Willson.


To ensure the highest quality of judging and consistency throughout, 2008 saw the introduction of 20 Panel Chairmen, a core group of tasters, responsible for leading their panel of judges for all 9 days of the competition. The Panel Chairmen are the best of the best. They are Masters of Wine, winemakers and experienced wine writers. They supported the 5 Co-Chairmen - Charles Metcalfe, Derek Smedley MW, Sam Harrop MW, Tim Atkin MW and 2008's International Co-Chairman for 2008 is New Zealand's Bob Campbell MW.


Via the official website for the competition everyone can take advantage of the tasting skills of the 400 judges and 5 Co-Chairmen. Judges' comments on each medal winning wine are reproduced to aid selection. UK consumers can also search by their preferred retailer and price.


And here's what her counterpart had to say about the International Wine & Spirit Competition:

International Wine & Spirit Competition 2008 winning wines from the northern hemisphere, as judged by over 70 professionals from around the globe, in this, the best established wine competition in the UK.

In a series of highly structured, blind tastings held over the last 10 weeks, the judging teams assessed over 3,000 light and fortified wines from Europe, Asia and USA & Canada in the first stage of their three-fold judging programme. Southern hemisphere wines and all spirits each also have a dedicated tasting and announcement schedule that follow later this summer.

Only 2% of these fine wine entries, where the average retail price is  £9+ per bottle, attained the highly sought after Gold, or Gold 'Best in Class' medals, the latter of which are awarded to the products that perform best within their category.


IWSC Competition Director, Frances Horder said;

"The quality, diversity and sheer numbers were markedly increased this year. It is marvellous to see some serious wines coming in from Asia and New Europe, whilst some of our most traditional producers such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal have all shown gains in awards. It is only because of our stringent evaluation system that the quantity of medals is not greater, but the rigorous judging limits the awards to the best of the best."

All entries are blind tasted in groups divided by variety, region and vintage as necessary. Awards are made on a points system and sponsored trophies are presented in selected categories. Technical analysis is carried out on Gold, Gold (Best in Class), Silver (Best in Class) award winning wines, spirits and liqueurs to ensure that all products are technically sound and will be of the same high quality when they reach the consumer as they were when the judging panels originally tasted them.

  • Triumphant countries with the highest number of medals by percentage of entries:

Ø England proving that the quality is definitely there with a staggering 96% of English wines walking away with a medal, including the now legendary Nyetimber vineyard picking up a Gold 'Best in Class' for their Classic Cuvée 2001

Ø In a surprising result, Israel produced 91% success in winning medals across their entries with lead producers Yarden Golan Heights, Carmel, Recanati, Dalton & Tishbi Estate Winery repeatedly picking up awards.

  • Top three country with the most entries & medals:

Ø France leads the way with highest number and proportion of Golds for its entries: with x2 Gold & an outstanding x17 Gold Best in Class medals, equivalent to 2.4% of the French entries, plus the highest number of awards in total at 524

Ø Spain takes x5 Gold (including x4 Best in Class) for its fortified wines and a further 10 Golds (of which x7 were Best in Class) for its light wines. Total medals given to Spain bring them in at number 2 after France, with 442 wins.

Ø Portugal brings in 16 Gold Best in Class for its Ports, and 3 Gold Best in Class for their light wines. A total medal tally of 432 brings Portugal in only just behind Spain.

  • New to the competition:

Ø China entered wines for the first time this year and with Japanese wines up 75% and Indian wine entries up 38% from 2007, the Asian market is showing characteristic determination to penetrate new markets. Watch this space for their performance in the year ahead!

Ø 13 is not an unlucky number for Turkey, with their wines having tentatively tiptoed into the IWSC for the first time last year, they were up a staggering 900% this year on entries – and have been rewarded with 13 medals. The single winery sweeping up most of these is Kavaklidere Saraplari, who are exhibiting at LIWF this week as part of the newly founded generic body; Wines of Turkey.

Allen Gibbons, Executive Director of the IWSC, concluded:

"The global wine industry is now broader than ever, with Britain continuing to provide an international platform for emerging producers alongside the traditional wine producing countries. On our stand this week at the London Wine Fair we will be showing some of the winning wines from across the Northern Hemisphere. There are tutored tastings covering fine Champagnes, the wines of England, Germany, Italy, Spain and Fortified wines through to an open tasting of the newer entries although it may perhaps be a little misleading to describe Turkey as an emerging producer, given that wine-making can be traced back to biblical times in the region. "