Home News > May 2024 > The results are in!

The results are in!

After a four-year hiatus, the Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA) – the UK’s only wine competition aimed solely at the on-trade – came back with a bang this year, and we are delighted to now reveal the medal winners.

The revived competition is being run by Agile Media in partnership with Imbibe Live, and in March this year we brought together some of the best palates in the industry to take part in our judging days.

Our sommeliers travelled from far and wide to take part, representing a wide range of venues – including The Dorchester, Noble Rot and Hawskmoor in London, and Restaurant Hywel Jones (Wiltshire), Midsummer House (Cambridge) and Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh. The talented judging panels were overseen by competition chair Isa Bal, co-owner of two Michelin-star Trivet restaurant, who described the judging as “a very friendly environment, with lots of peer-to-peer exchanging of knowledge”.

Showcasing the diversity of wines available in the UK on-trade today, SWA is an unrivalled barometer for what’s hot and what’s not in the world of wine right now. Those receiving a Gold medal take a coveted place on our Gold List, which, just like any good wine list, includes everything from cheap and cheerful house wines to Grandes Marques Champagnes.

All wines entered are tasted blind by category, with only the trade prices shown, and our sommelier judges are looking for versatility, typicity, personality, food-friendliness, and, importantly, value for money – just as you would when putting together a wine list for your venue.

Said Andrew Catchpole, editor of Harpers Wine & Spirit: “There’s immense value in having wines destined for the on-trade scrutinised by the on-trade, delivering clear indications of what somms and buyers are currently after.”

High-performing categories in this year’s competition include sparkling wine – not just from Champagne, but from England, Austria and Slovenia too, the latter particularly impressing the judges for its bright, juicy examples. Our sommeliers were very enthusiastic about the English entries too, declaring the category as a whole as “deserving of a space on all wine lists”. English wineries receiving a significant number of medals included Fox & Fox and Ridgeview from East Sussex, Surrey’s Greyfriars and Dorset’s Langham Wine Estate.

Elsewhere, there was a good spread of medals across French wine regions (with France receiving a remarkable 26% of the total number of medals awarded). French Golds covered a broad spectrum of prices too, from a sub-£14 Gewürztraminer from Alsace producer Henri Ehrhart, to Laurent-Perrier’s “endlessly complex” Alexandra Rosé Millésimé 2012 at £260+.

Other regions and countries with a particularly high medal-to-entry ratio included Chianti, Argentina, Austria and South Africa, with standout categories offering high sommelier appeal including north-west Italy (especially Barbera), Sardinian Vermentino and Argentinian Malbec.

There was much praise from our sommeliers for the sweet and fortified category this year too, with sherry putting in a particularly good showing. A special mention to Valdespino, which took home three Golds and a Bronze for its sherries, with two Critics’ Choice awards on top.

Critics’ Choice awards are reserved for a handful of very special wines that really stand out. They could offer something a bit different, or are just outstanding examples of a classic style, but whatever the reason, these are the wines that got our sommeliers’ juices flowing at this year’s competition.

Judges also had plenty to say about orange wine this year, which is fast becoming a must-list in venues up and down the country. This year’s entries covered the full spectrum of orange wine styles, from lighter examples to richer, oxidative wines, but the judges’ top pick was Altolandon’s “rich and inviting” Enblanco de Altolandon 2022 from Manchuela. Elsewhere in Spain, it was top marks for Ramón Bilbao, which took three Golds (two of them also getting Critics’ Choice awards) across the Rioja and Rueda categories.

We also welcomed a good selection of wines from regions that are less commonly found on UK restaurant wine lists. Examples that particularly impressed our judges include the “layered and spicy” Fleur de Ka 2008 from Château Ka in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and a trio of “easy-drinking, fresh and full-bodied” Brazilian reds from Miolo.

An important part of SWA has always been to identify the great-value wines that are crowd-pleasing and versatile, making good house wine options across a wide range of venues. Interestingly, the Golds in our red and white house wine categories (priced £10 and under) all came from the Old World this year – specifically France, Italy and Spain. There was more global representation among the Silvers and Bronzes, however, with wines from Chile, South Africa and New Zealand all performing well. A special shout out to Broadland Drinks for its incredible-value Epiphany Chenin Blanc 2023 from Swartland, South Africa, with a trade price of just £4.00.

Judges can also give a special Pub & Bar award to any best-value wines that are deemed to be great listings for gastropubs, and a special mention here goes to Fabrizio Vella’s Bianco Organico 2022 from Sicily, and Robin Baum Wines’ RBW Veneto Bianco 2018, each picking up both a Critics’ Choice and a Pub & Bar Award for their food-friendly Italian whites.

At the other end of the scale, it was a case of the bigger the better in Italy, with a high proportion of Gold medals going to the higher-priced wines. Well done to San Polino for taking the highest accolade for both its Brunello di Montalcino 2019, and its “top class” Helichrysum, Brunello di Montalcino 2019, and to Michele Chiarlo for its medal haul, which included Cipressi, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza 2021, described as “a great all-round Barbera.”

For a full breakdown of all our Gold, Silver and Bronze medal-winning wines, including those winning special awards, visit sommelierwineawards.com, where you’ll also find judges’ tasting notes and UK supplier details for each wine.

Next month, we’ll be publishing the Sommelier Wine Awards Gold Book, which contains all this and more, including insightful commentary from our sommeliers on the current wine trends in the UK on-trade. We’ll also be revealing which wines received one of our highly sought-after Trophies, including Sparkling Wine of the Year, House Red Wine of the Year and Overall Wine of the Year.