Home News > March 2018 > 2018 was the year of…

Competition Director, Chris Losh, gives an insight into highlights from our 2018 judging...

The Snow-mellier wine awards
The Beast From the East howled in, stamped his chilly feet, blew snow up the country’s nostrils and generally made everyone’s life a misery for a week smack in the middle of SWA. Fortunately, he did it an hour after our first week’s judging was finished and had largely melted just before the second week’s started. Those coming in on trains from outside London heave a huge sigh of relief - as did the organisers!

The Cava Comeback
Actually, it’s not so much a comeback as a brand new start. As a category, cava has never done much in the Sommelier Wine Awards, but this year we saw a decent number of entries and, a really decent raft of wines, too. Most of the tasters who got the flights vowed to go off and rethink this part of their list. There can be no higher praise.

The Rhône Rangers
The Rhône tends to do well in SWA, but after a quiet couple of years (by its standards at least) it was back with a bang in 2018. The quality, from top to bottom, north to south and across both reds and whites was, frankly, extraordinary.

The SWA Training Programme

At Imbibe Live last year, we carried out impromptu ‘SWA tasting sessions’ for sommeliers who thought they might like to take part. We followed this up with an induction day in January at Roka Aldywch in London. It was great to see graduates of our SWA Academy there and tasting with all the hard-bitten old pros this year.

Kazakh Chutzpah
Yes. Two ‘z’s in two words! We’re not afraid of high-scoring Scrabble letters at SWA. Nor are our tasters afraid of high prices. Some great wines came in from Kazakhstan again this year, often with the kind of price tag. But the best still did well, with the sleekness and polish of a well valeted Ferrari. Worth keeping an eye open for them in the results later this year.

Piemontese Poetry
Not literally. We weren’t writing limericks starting ‘There once was a cheeky Barolo…’ But we found an amazingly good number of wines from the north-west of Italy this year that pulled off the unique combination of being drinkable now, modern in structure and still utterly of their place.

Note: if you want to continue the Barolo limerick, feel free. Best example gets a mackerel.

The Brownies. Again.
They appeared for the first time last year, and were back again in 2018. In fact, some judges admitted that they were the only reason they were turning up to judge at all. Can you judge a flight of Veneto white’s seconds after stuffing your face with half a kilo of gooey yumminess? Apparently yes…


110 – number of judges who took part over the six days
12 – number of years that the Sommelier Wine Awards has been running (including this year)
2 – number of snowballs thrown (outside and inside) during the course of this year’s tasting
460 – number of brownies consumed by our tasters every day
£2.95 – price of the cheapest wine at this year’s competition
£261 – price of the most expensive wine at this year’s competition
4 – number of Delta Q coffees drunk on average per taster per day
4,750 – number of corks recycled, and now home to air plants #SWAstainable