Drinks: Drinks


Your questions answered about the 2011 Sommelier Wine Awards…

What are the Sommelier Wine Awards?

Now in its fifth year, the Sommelier Wine Awards is Britain’s (possibly the world’s) only on-trade wine competition. Almost all of the judges are sommeliers and no high-street wines are permitted to enter, meaning you can call in samples of the medal-winners with confidence.

What criteria did the judges use?

In a nutshell, the same ones that you would use yourself when selecting wines for your list: food-friendliness, versatility, value for money and typicity. Since it’s such a factor when putting together a list, our tasters were aware of the price of every wine they tried.

How did the competition work?

After the first round of tasting, we narrowed down our selection to the most versatile and interesting wines that had delivered for the price – around 35% of those sent in. These wines were all guaranteed at least a Bronze medal. In the final round of tasting, our judges re-tried all of the wines, leaving some where they were, upgrading others to Silver and putting the best on our 130-strong Gold List.

And that’s like a proper wine list, right? 

Yes. Space on the Gold List has been allocated as you might imagine a keen, go-ahead establishment might do. All the categories you’d expect are there, plus a few trophy wines and the occasional sommelier-inspired oddity. Like a wine list, we’ve ordered this booklet with the must-stocks – the Essentials – at the start, followed by Europe (listed by region) and the New World (listed by varietal).

How did numbers compare this year to last?

Overall entries were up 35% on 2010 but, with the addition of the Bronze List classification this year, we awarded the same number of Golds and fewer Silvers than last year. 

Did the judges have to fill categories if they didn’t like the wine?

No. If the judges genuinely didn’t think any wines in a flight merited a Gold, they didn’t have to award one simply to fill a space. That said, they made every effort to think commercially and ensure that as many bases as possible were covered, to create a balanced list.

And did food come into it?

Yes. As well as being a constant presence at the back of the minds of the sommeliers while they were judging, we also had special Food Match Awards, where our tasters selected 30 or so of the sub-£12 Gold List wines and tried them with 10 classic restaurant dishes. 

Any other special awards?

Yes. The Critics’ Choice Awards, which were given to wines that our tasting teams simply fell in love with, and the Merchant Awards, which are discretionary awards made by the competition organisers to reward submitters that performed particularly strongly in certain areas. This year, we’ve also asked some top sommeliers to create a small By The Glass selection of wines that will be great on their own and versatile with food.

Can I use the medal logos on my list if I want?

Absolutely. Visit imbibe.com and click on the SWA link. 

How about trying the wines?

As well as calling the merchants to arrange samples, you can always come to the Imbibe Live show at Earl’s Court 2 in London on 5-6 July – hundreds of the wines will be there, as well as a special themed SWA area.

All prices quoted are single bottle, ex-VAT. Prices were correct at the time of submission and judging at the start of 2011, but may be subject to change after publication.

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