Decanter World Wine Awards and Bordeaux 2020

Well, it’s been a busy old week. Sunday afternoon I headed down to London to judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Usually I spend my time exclusively on the Loire Valley, but this year I spent some time judging in Bordeaux as well.

The DWWA is always enjoyable, and an impressive logistic achievement in any year, even more so in The Time of Covid. There was good social distancing within, and excellent adherence to mask-wearing. All participants (judges, runners, Decanter staff and support staff) self-tested for Covid-19 antigen on a daily basis before attending. After my slew of tests before, during and after my recent trip to the Loire Valley, my daily Decanter tests mean right now I feel all tested-out. But it was the right thing to do. Admittance without a negative test result simply wasn’t permitted, and the Decanter team deserve praise for the consistent and serious approach taken. I know there has been a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the judging could proceed in maximally safe conditions.

Decanter World Wine Awards and Bordeaux 2020

The standard of samples submitted naturally ranges from the sublime to the… well, less than sublime. In the Loire I judged alongside Chris Hardy of Charles Sydney Wines, Nigel Wilkinson once of the RSJ restaurant, and Loire panel chairman Jim Budd. At the top end, the gold-level wines awarded in this region always intrigue; I always find myself wondering if it is from a domaine I know well, or could this be a new discovery? It is all scrupulously blind, so like everybody else I have to wait for the results to find out.

It is also instructive to find wines that don’t show well; although a flight of disappointing wines can be deflating, when you spend all your time tasting and drinking the very best of the region, flitting from Luneau-Papin to Pierre Ménard to Philippe Alliet to Philippe Foreau and Alphonse Mellot, it can serve as a useful reminder that there are many other domaines out there with more than a little room for improvement.

Anyway, there were a handsome handful of golds awarded in the Loire Valley, so I look forward to learning who has made the grade.

In Bordeaux I tasted with Beatrice Bessi, a sommelier who has worked at 67 Pall Mall and The Chiltern Firehouse, and Dmitri Mesnard MS, a Master Sommelier with a CV including Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Hotel du Vin. Dmitri is chairman of the European Court of Sommeliers and is currently acting chairman of the Bordeaux panel, standing in for Bordeaux correspondent Jane Anson. It was enjoyable tasting with them both, and we found some interesting and intriguing wines, especially in the generic Bordeaux and St Emilion Grand Cru categories. Who made that very fine Petit Verdot cuvée, I wonder? We shall see…

Bordeaux was also part of my plans for the end of the week, as I expected today to be able to add a couple more tasting notes to my published Bordeaux 2020 reports. As it happens, however, some samples still have not materialised. And so today I have updated my St Emilion Grand Cru 2020 report with one lonesome note on 2020 Château Lassègue.  I have a sneaky feeling some other samples may still limp in, and if so I will add those tasting notes next week. Or next month. But hopefully before I attend DWWA 2022 next year. (18/6/21)