The countdown is on. With the Factor 30 packed away for another year and tractors buzzing up and down vine rows across the northern hemisphere, it can mean only one thing: entries are open for the 2020 Sommelier Wine awards.
If you’re a producer, you need to start the (ridiculously easy) registration process or talk to your importer to make sure that your wines are there.
If you’re a UK-based merchant, you need to start talking to your wineries and formulating a strategy that might lead to hatfuls of medals and a cherished Merchant of the Year award.
‘There are lots of wine competitions out there,’ said SWA’s chairman, Chris Losh. ‘But the Sommelier Wine Awards always has been and always will be different. It’s on-trade only wines, assessed exclusively by on-trade judges. It’s the best analysis of what’s out there for the UK’s restaurants, bistros, bars and hotels.’
As a ‘somm’s eye’ snapshot of the wine world, the Sommelier Wine Awards has regularly picked up on trends before they become mainstream, such as the cooler style of New World Chardonnay and the explosion in English sparkling wine.
Both of these wine styles registered on the SWA radar before they were noticed anywhere else, picking up favourable mentions from the competition’s judges. All their feedback – good, bad and practical – is recorded in the famous Gold Book of medals, which is published every year along with the results.
Sparkling wine, rosé (both still and sparkling), Loire wines (across the board) and Australian Shiraz were star performers in 2019. Emerging trends from last year included a surge in high-acid whites such as Txakoli and Vinho Verde and a renaissance from Central and Eastern European countries, as well as a surprise strong showing from Israel.
‘It’ll be interesting to see whether these are one-offs or actual trends to be reckoned with in the medium to long-term,’ said Chris Losh. ‘The wines that do well in SWA are also the ones that tend to end up on lists – and customer’s wine glasses – across the country. We’re really at the cutting edge of wine in the on-trade here.’
Merchants and producers can enter their wines here.