About the Awards
The Sommelier Wine Awards is a wine competition with a difference. Britain’s only on-trade wine competition, it focuses entirely on wines aimed at the on-trade. Since it started in 2007 it has grown to become the first point of reference for the UK's on-trade wine buyers as well as the key competition for wines trying to increase their presence in hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants. The judges serve or buy wine in the on-trade, and wines with general high street distribution are not permitted, except for sparkling and fortified wines, and online-exclusive wines
But what makes this competition so distinctive? Let’s find out.
How does the competition work?
All the wines are tasted blind, and by category – say, Chablis or New World Pinot Noir. Around a fifth of entries receive a Commended classification, with roughly half of entries making it through to the Final Round. Here they are considered for medals: Bronze, Silver and, the ultimate award, a place on the Gold List. At this stage, those red wines that need to ‘open up’, whether due to youth or the style, are served in a decanter.
What’s the Gold List?
The distinctive point of this competition is not simply to hand out medals. It’s to put together the Gold List a kind of ultimate wine list, from around 2,500 wines sent in. This list (around 300 bins this year) covers everything from great value wines to trophy bottles, from must-stocks such as Pinot Grigio or Rioja up to more esoteric hand-sells. It is, in short, just like a real wine list.
So what are Varietal Classics?
Almost ‘brands’ in their own right, this quartet of wines (found in the Essentials part of the results) are so omnipresent on your lists that we reckon they need their own beauty show.
Who are your judges?
Drawn from all sectors of the on-trade – hotels, bars, restaurants and pubs – our judges include Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine, and are all involved with either buying, consulting or serving wine. See our cast of stars here.
What criteria do the judges use?
The same that you would use: food-friendliness, versatility, typicity, personality – and value for money, at whatever the price. To help them, ‘tight’ or young, expensive wines are decanted before tasting.
And what is the role of the Gold List coordinator?
This is an ‘overseeing’ position for the final round of judging, with Hakkasan’s group wine buyer, Christine Parkinson, keeping a handle on all of the wines that are put forward for places on the Gold List by the tasting teams. She makes sure that we have no gaps or duplications, and that all price points are covered.
Does food come into it?
Of course! As well as being ever-present in the minds of the tasters, we select 30 or so Gold-Listed wines to be tasted off with 12 key restaurant dishes in a final Food Round. The winners pick up our Food Match Trophies.
Any other special awards?
Yes. The Critics’ Choice Trophies are given to wines that our tasting teams simply fall in love with, whatever their price or style; our By The Glass Trophies are great value, versatile wines that would be great on their own or with food, whatever your venue. The Merchant & Producer Awards are given to those submitters who have done particularly well in certain key areas.
Can I try the wines?
Obviously, you can call in samples from the UK Suppliers (see our Supplier Directory). Or come along to Imbibe Live on 4 and 5 July 2016 at Olympia, London. There will be a range of winning wines, plus the chance to cast your vote for Best Wine in Show, House Wine of the Year, Fine Wine of the Year, and Gastropub Wine of the Year.
“This is a serious competition which is 100% on-trade focused, judged by over 100 on-trade professionals whose job it is to select wines for their establishments. Any wine that achieves a medal in this competition raises its profile and establishes the winery as a serious producer of quality wines within the on-trade” Duncan Schwab,
winemaker & trade manager, Sharpham Wines
“Winning a Gold at SWA for our Cuvée Les Genoux has certainly got us noticed (even though we are tiny), and can be the reassurance that makes all the difference when you are selling something from a lesser-known region at quite a high price.” Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, Domaine of the Bee
“We were thrilled to be recognised by the Sommelier Wine Awards. It helps us to show – via the people whose palates really matter to the on-trade – that we are making the kind of wines that they need to be ordering. SWA’s credibility with that audience is second to none.” Ben Smith, Concha y Toro UK