Judgement of London: celebrating wine not origin

Judgement of London tasting, 20 May 2024
An expert panel of 21 judges tasted 16 pairs of white and red wines, pitting Europe and the Rest of the World, in an homage to the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.

It was a blind tasting where wine worlds blurred rather than collided; where ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ felt obsolete against nuance, texture, elegance and balance.

Following four hours of judging 32 wines – eight pairs of whites and eight pairs of reds – by a panel of 21 Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and other UK wine experts, the margin of difference between Europe and the Rest of the World (ROW) in the Judgement of London came down to just 0.65%.

Scroll down to see the pairings of European and Rest of the World wines

Judgement of London judges

Judges and organisers of the Judgement of London tasting at the London Wine Fair on 20 May 2024. Credit: AnthonyUpton.com

A level playing field

Europe triumphed, its 16 wines earning a total of 2,621.5 points (an average of 7.8 out of 10 for each), against ROW’s 2,604.5 points (7.75/10).

However, top white and overall top-scoring wine went to a New Zealand Riesling: Pegasus Bay’s 2011 Bel Canto from Waipara in North Canterbury. The runner-up white was another ROW Riesling: Grosset’s 2012 Polish Hill from Clare Valley in South Australia.

Rhône and Bordeaux took the plaudits in the reds, with Domaine J-L Chave’s 2012 Hermitage the top scorer, ahead of 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild.

Held at the London Wine Fair (LWF) on 20 May, the Judgement of London was a tribute to the late Steven Spurrier, Decanter’s consultant editor and columnist for 27 years, and instigator of the 1976 Judgment of Paris.

Whereas that tasting 48 years ago saw ‘New World’ California Chardonnays and Cabernets triumph over more famous ‘Old World’ Burgundy and Bordeaux, this take aimed to reflect the modern fine wine landscape.

Conceived by LWH director Hannah Tovey, who met Spurrier when she started her wine career at Decanter, the Judgment of London brought together a broader spectrum of wines from across Europe and beyond.

Ronan Sayburn MW, Decanter World Wine Awards co-Chair and CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and Sarah Abbott MW, founder and director of the Swirl Wine Group, selected the wines for the tasting, 80% of them sent in directly from the producers.

Each pair comprised a European wine and a ROW counterpart matched by style – mostly by grape variety or blend but several pairs by texture. Producers had the choice of which vintage to send in, so long as it was between 2005 and 2020.

Sarah Abbott MW, Hannah Tovey and Ronan Sayburn MS

Sarah Abbott MW, Hannah Tovey and Ronan Sayburn MS, organisers of the Judgement of London.

Assessing the inherent qualities

Ahead of the tasting Abbott encouraged the judges not to focus on ‘whether wine A was better than wine B’ – or to ‘pull out the party tricks’ of trying to guess the identity of a wine, but to ‘get into its soul’ and assess it purely on its inherent qualities.

Sayburn agreed, and in his address to the judges he emphasised that ‘finding a winner or loser was not the purpose of this tasting’.

Rather, it was to show how producers in the ‘so-called New World’ are now making wines better adapted to their own climates, clones and communities, rather than just trying to emulate traditional European styles. And with that has come greater elegance, balance, length, intensity and distinction.

‘Back in 1976 it was the underdog – California – versus the establishment – France,’ Sayburn said.

‘The underdog won, but things have changed a lot. Now there is no New World and Old World distinction; terminology like that is being rightly dropped as there is a much more level playing field in the world of wine. The lines are definitely blurred.’

Abbott said Spurrier was not canonical or conservative in his wine tastes; indeed he delighted in discovering beauty and diversity everywhere he went, so this modern tribute to his original 1976 event was fitting one.

Judgement of London wines: My take

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Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/judgement-of-london-celebrating-wine-not-origin-530520/