16,518 wines, bespoke disposable spittoons, 150 proximity lanyards…

The world’s largest and most influential wine competition, Decanter World Wine Awards, has completed its first socially distanced judging month at the Future Plc offices in Canary Wharf.  

After an incredibly difficult year for the wine industry, the Decanter World Wine Awards was determined to support producers and find a way to ensure the awards went ahead. With the introduction of new innovations and a more sustainable approach, it successfully carried out four consecutive weeks of judging in August whilst adhering to Covid-19 guidelines. Over the month,116 expert wine judges, including 37 Masters of Wine and nine Master Sommeliers, blind tasted 16,518 wines from 56 countries, with the results due to be announced on Tuesday 22nd September.   

As the first wine tasting of this scale since the pandemic started, Decanter was meticulous in its approach with hopes to pave the way for more industry events to return safely. Some of the safety measures that were put in place included temperature checks on the door, PPE for all judges and staff, disposable spittoons with antibacterial powder that solidifies with liquid and is later incinerated with other hazardous waste, proximity tags worn on lanyards that vibrate when you are less than two metres from another person, hand-sanitising stations, and isolated tasting areas with designated facilities.  

On judging, co-chair Andrew Jefford said, “Was it all going to happen? There was a big question mark over that…I think it’s a wonderful thing that the DWWA was able to happen this year. I think it’s a point of focus for a lot of the wine trade around the world really. It is the biggest competition of all and so the fact that we’ve been able to keep going and to make it happen I think has given everybody heart and I hope will put us on a good footing to go forwards into the Autumn and next Spring.” 

This year, Decanter supported small local businesses in an effort to support local communities: 

Supporting local business: 

  • Change Please, a London-based coffee company helping homeless people off the streets by training and employing them, provided baristas to run the office kitchens at the Future Plc offices that became coffee bars.  
  • Naema, a locally owned Italian café, delivered over 2,000 freshly baked pastries every morning.  
  • Fooditude, a London-based sustainable catering company, provided lunch, cooked from scratch and dropped off daily in Covid secure packages.  
  • Belu, a carbon-neutral and ethically sourced British bottled water company that supplied the competition with thousands of bottles made from recycled glass, received a donation of over £10,000 from Decanter.  

Decanter also worked with Glassbusters: to champion a compact system of sustainable waste management, meaning that all the glass, plastic, and cardboard will be recycled and reused, and the wine poured away will be turned into natural gas. 

At the core of the Decanter World Wine Awards are values of integrity, authority and impartiality, which makes it highly respected internationally. The calibre of the judges – undoubtedly the leading names and experts in the global wine industry – and the rigorous judging process means that the competition has an impeccable reputation, proving that each awarded wine really is worth the medal it proudly displays on its bottle. 

Victoria Stanage, head of awards and events at Decanter says, “Our commitment to the producers to deliver their results, albeit three months later than promised, made it absolutely necessary that we figure out a way to move forward with the competition this year. It is more important than ever that producers have the opportunity to have their wines tasted by some of the world’s best palates and to win a DWWA medal, which points to a trusted recommendation for shoppers amongst the overwhelming array of options on the shelf.” 

The results and coveted medals will be announced on 22nd September. 

Photo: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

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