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How the judging works

All you need to know about the Sommelier Wine Awards’ judging process

How are wines judged in SWA?

All the wines are tasted blind and by category. Around 25% of entries receive a Commended classification, with about half of entries making it through to the second round. Here they are considered for medals: Bronze, Silver and, the ultimate award, a place on the Gold List.

What criteria do the SWA judges use?

The same that you would use: food-friendliness, versatility, typicity, personality – and, importantly, value for money at whatever the price. Judges know the trade prices of each wine as they are judging each flight. If wines are ‘tight’ or young and expensive, they are decanted before tasting.

What is the role of the head of judging?

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 by the tasting teams for places on the Gold List. 'Aided by Drinkonomics' Christopher Cooper as her deputy, she makes sure that we have no gaps or duplications, and that all price points are covered.

Are there any special awards?

Yes. Thirty Gold-Listed wines are judged in a taste-off round featuring 12 key restaurant dishes, the winners picking up Food Match Trophy awards. Critics’ Choice Trophies are given to wines that the judges simply fall in love with, whatever their price or style. By The Glass and Pub & Bar Trophy winners are great value, versatile wines that would be great on their own or with food, whatever your venue.

The Merchant Awards and Producer of the Year awards are given to those submitters who have done particularly well in certain key areas.

Finally, senior judges will decide on the ultimate trophies, the Wines of the Year: Best Wine in Show, House Wine of the Year, Fine Wine of the Year, and Gastropub Wine of the Year.

Who are the judges?

Our SWA judges are required to be working in the on-trade, whether it’s as a sommelier or wine buyer in a restaurant/hotel, or as a consultant developing wine lists. You can see the 2018 directory of judges here

If you'd like to be considered as a SWA judge for 2019, please register yourself here.