Decanter Asia Wine Awards co-chair Steven Spurrier introduces this year’s competition.
The inaugural Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) held in September in Hong Kong was a microcosm of the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) which have been held in London since 2004.
From 4,500 wines entered that year, the DWWA has grown steadily to 14,120 this year, so we can be sure that the 2,249 wines tasted for the DAWA is just a beginning. But while London is an established marketplace on the international scene, with high entries from even lesser-known wine-producing countries, Asia is a more specialised market and the established regions dominated the entries in the first year. Thus, of the 397 wines from France, 160 were from Bordeaux and 61 from Champagne and of the 318 from Italy 109 were from Tuscany. Spain, Germany and Portugal were well-represented with 147, 109 and 65 respectively.
Australia headed the New World with 378 wines, followed by 185 from Chile, 148 from New Zealand and 136 from South Africa, 96 from Argentina and 83 from the USA. China (24) and Japan (23) led the entries from Asia. As the Asian market expands, the entries will broaden to wines from many more countries.
As Co-Chair, I judged only in the morning, overseeing the many tables in the afternoon. It had been decided that the DAWA would be a competition judged principally by Asian palates for Asian consumers, so 90% of the judges were Asian, or based in Asia.
My Co-Chair, Jeannie Cho Lee MW, and I were ably supported by Vice Chairs Gerard Basset MS MW and Andrew Jefford from the UK, Michael Hill-Smith MW from Australia, Ch’ng Poh Tiong from Singapore and Shinya Tasaki from Japan, each of whom headed up two tables of rotating judges throughout the competition, were responsible for selecting with them the Regional Trophies and then joined Jeannie and myself for the International Trophies.
A wine competition is only as good as its judges, for the sole purpose is to recognise and award quality. After nine years with the DWWA, I have to say that I was encouraged and impressed by the standard of judging, all tasters showing knowledge and, more importantly, independence of mind. My personal highlights were the always exciting range from Chile and more specifically a superb range of wines from Bordeaux’s Sauternes region, whose sweet wines are nectar for the Asian palate.
The results showed that 84.39% of wines received an award, compared to 70.13% at the DWWA this year. The reason was that the overall quality of wines entered was very high. In London, many, many “everyday” wines are entered, as these are sold all over the UK, while in Hong Kong it seemed that mostly wines worthy of the Asian market were there.
There were slightly more Gold Medals than in London, due to the tasters perhaps being impressed by the very high quality of the wines, but there were more Silver and substantially more (39.48%) Bronze Medals while Commended being similar to London.
Gold is, of course, the best and Silver not far from Gold, but a Bronze Medal is a strong recommendation of quality to the consumer and both the DAWA judges and the wines themselves should be applauded for this recognition.
See also: Co-chair’s report: Jeannie Cho Lee MW