Marking Beth Willard’s 10th year as a DWWA judge, including principal roles as regional chair for North, Central & Eastern Europe and Spain, she will join the 2024 competition as co-chair alongside the existing four-strong team.
An accomplished wine buyer with well over a decade of experience sourcing quality wines across the globe, Willard’s buying roles have covered the UK, US and Australian markets with key responsibility for wines from Spain, Central and Eastern Europe, South America and France.
She’s an Australian native with a wine career beginning in Canberra, but her love of languages and travel has seen her travel the world over to work for high profile companies such as Syndicat des Vins de Bordeaux and Direct Wines (Laithwaites). Long based in the Northern Hemisphere, she’s not forgotten her Aussie roots, however – cricket, that is.
‘The most important thing to understand about me is that no matter where I am, whether I’m visiting vineyards, blending with winemakers, or just researching and writing at home, I will be watching a cricket match (often more than one at a time) or following the scores online. Given I spend most of my time working in Spain, it isn’t always easy to explain this keen interest to my friends and colleagues there,’ she said.
A member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino, Willard plans on spending a lot more time in Spain to be closer to emerging trends and to work on projects which contribute to the future success of growers and winemakers there.
Naming Rioja among the wine-producing regions to watch in 2024, admitting an odd proposition given its notoriety, she said: ‘I am hoping that Rioja gains more attention in the coming year for its superb vineyard-focused wines. Rioja is the source of some of the finest wines in the world with the rare combination of producing immediate pleasure while also ageing like very few other wines.’
It’s not all Spanish wine, though. ‘Personally, I’m really excited about tasting new wines and vintages from regions I haven’t visited for a few years, especially from countries like Argentina, South Africa and Hungary – DWWA is always a great opportunity to stay up-to-date with new trends and emerging producers,’ she added.
‘There has been a big improvement in quality from many regions I’ve tasted during my time judging at DWWA. Particularly regions in Eastern Europe and the Balkans are entering more and more premium wines with beautiful balance and unique character.
‘This has been one of the most exciting regions to be involved with over the past few years. Certainly tasting lots of obscure indigenous varieties from far away, exotic regions reminds you just how big the wine world is, and that there is always something to discover, a gem of a wine that you might stumble across during a day’s tasting.’
Reason & responsibility
Willard’s appointment marks the first time DWWA will have five co-chairs overseeing the competition in its 21-year history, with legacy chairs including the late Steven Spurrier and Gerard Basset OBE MW MS.
The expansion comes in response to the competition’s continued growth, breaking entry records three years consecutively from 2021 to 2023, with the most recent edition seeing 18,250 wines judged from 57 countries.
In tandem, Willard’s election will see the dynamic co-chair committee’s expertise cover even more ground from winemaking and writing to consulting, buying, importing, educating and wine service.
‘DWWA is getting bigger and bigger,’ said Hill Smith, ‘but for me, the numbers are less important. What’s important is the credibility of the judging, the credibility of the results.’
With utmost focus on integrity of judging, by specialist judges, and of varied backgrounds for greatest objectivity, Decanter’s events & awards director…
Source : https://www.decanter.com/decanter-world-wine-awards/new-co-chair-to-join-decanter-world-wine-awards-welcoming-beth-willard-520555/