It's already time to start thinking about the 2016 Sommelier Wine Awards, with entries to the on-trade wine competition opening today.
Swartland blends, re-energised European wine regions and Chilean old-vine Carignan are among the emerging trends that competition director Chris Losh hopes to see represented in next year's awards. 'We'd really like to see more of these in next year's competition. But the classics are always important in SWA, too,' says Losh. 'Rioja and the Rhône have become absolute bankers over the last few years – lots of great wines, with real strength in depth. I’d really like it if places like Chianti and Bordeaux could follow their example.’
The 2015 competition results, announced in May, saw Bibendum Wine beat off Boutinot to take the Merchant of the Year crown for the first time, while Italy, England, the US and Turkey all triumphed in the medal stakes.
New categories being introduced in 2016 include cava and English sparkling rosé in the Sparkling sector, and a clutch of red and white sub-categories for both Austria and Germany.
Judges are all members of the on-trade, with Christine Parkinson, head of wine for the global Hakkasan group, continuing to spearhead the judging in her role as Gold List co-ordinator. New team leaders joining the likes of Martin Lam and Andrea Briccarello include Anne Krebiehl MW, Nigel Lister and Sam Caporn MW.
'SWA is the most relevant wine competition for the UK’s on-trade market,' says restaurateur and consultant, Martin Lam.
'In the UK we have had great success in achieving awards but for us, SWA 2015 was the cherry on the top of the cake,' says Juan Teixeira, winemaker and part of the Justino's Madeira management team.
Entries must be submitted online by 27 February 2016, with judging starting mid-February, and results published online in May 2016 and in the Gold Book with the July/August issue of Imbibe. Full details on the competition and how to enter can be found at sommelierwineawards.com.