Spain was down, Italy took the top spot and sparkling wines were the stand-out success. Those are the key take-home messages from the Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA) 2019.
With the results now live, merchants, producers and, of course, sommeliers will be scanning the website in search of medal winners.
And they could do worse than start where all good meals start, with sparkling wine.
Fizz was one of the stand-out hits of SWA 2019, with an incredible 75% increase in Gold Medals. Much of this was driven by a powerhouse performance by champagne, which saw big numbers across all the styles, from non-vintage to rosé.
But numbers were also up for prosecco and new world sparklers, too. English fizz – the star of last year’s competition – saw numbers broadly the same as 2018.
‘They all showed really well. There’s a lot of opportunity within non-vintage champagne,’ said the Scarlet Hotel’s Jim Bass.
In the annual battle between Italy and France for top spot, this year the former edged it, with 94 places on the Gold List, compared to 87 for France.
Australia was the most successful New World country (its 31 Gold Medals was more than Spain this year). The country did surprisingly well with both Riesling and Pinot Noir, but its raft of Golds was driven in no small measure by its performance with Shiraz.
With 12 Golds, it was the biggest single category in this year’s competition, with tasters delighted to find consistency of quality but also definite regional styles.
‘It’s a really nice alternative to Côtes du Rhône wines,’ said Roberto Sanchez of Sexy Fish. ‘You can always find something new, something different with them.’
There was, indeed, plenty of ‘new and different’ in this year’s competition, with an increased presence of wines from Eastern Europe. Croatia, Romania and Hungary, in particular. We also had a sizable number of medals from Israel for the first time.
Other trends included higher prices (again) and the continued move away from oak and towards fresher, often high-acid wines.
‘When we started this competition in 2007, wines were still largely about fruit and oak,’ said competition director Chris Losh. ‘Oak use, in particular, has changed over the last six years, but we’re also seeing a rise in entries and medals for styles like Txakoli, Vinho Verde or English Bacchus, that definitely weren’t in this competition even a few years ago. It looks like a definite trend.’
Read the full list of this year's SWA winners here