IWSC 2024 Wine Judging. Judges' deliberations: Champagne, Asian and Central & Eastern European wines

Wine news

Thu 9 May 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

Our second week of wine judging kicked off with a day of tasting Champagne led by Essi Avellan MW, followed by Asia and Central and Eastern Europe overseen by Sarah Abbott MW.


After a fantastic day judging sparkling wines last week, our judges gathered to taste the wines of Champagne. Led by Essi Avellan MW, our panels experienced everything the region has to offer, tasting some superb vintages and a wide range of styles and expressions.

Our judges were impressed with the overall quality of the wines, noting that “while some recent challenging vintages were evident - however, the high points illustrated that even in these challenging vintages, there's great quality to be found.”

Essi Avellan MW agreed with this opinion, stating that “overall the level was high with only a few poor wines. The vintage categories, and especially the Blanc de Blancs styles really stood out.”    

The panels drew attention to the Pinot Noir dominant blends, particularly a Vintage Brut, highlighting the aromas of toasted brioche and enjoying the long finish which the judges labelling it as “classy andelegant”.

Those wines dominated by Pinot Meunier performed well, with judges noting the complexity and precise palate of several wines made from this grape. “There were some delightful high spots amongst the Meunier-dominant blends”  shared the judges.

A non-vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne scored highly, impressing the judges with its “good concentration of fresh fruit, refreshing acidity with a creamy texture and a long, complex finish”.

Another high-scorer was a Vintage Brut Champagne, with the judges keen to highlight “the strong, powerful nose with aromas of rich toast”. This entry also impressed the judges with its “mature palate with flowers, biscuit, and toast with marmalade on the long dry finish”.

Overall the judges were pleased with the flights they tasted. “Champagne proves to be a consistently good quality winemaking region that delivers outstanding wines,” summarised the panel.


Wines from across Asia put in an impressive performance at the IWSC 2024 wine judging, with several gold-winning wines from Japan and China.

There has been an increased level of quality from China and Japan this year, which is really exciting to see!” Sarah Abbott MW, a member of our Wine Judging Committee praised.

Our panels were keen to highlight the Chardonnay from Japan. “We were all very impressed with the quality of Japanese Chardonnay – you can tell that significant effort has gone into this,” shared our judges. One such wine was awarded a gold medal, scoring 96 points. “A big bold tropical fruit style of Chardonnay with clever oaking, gorgeous creaminess and viscosity” said the judges.

It was great to see the range of varieties on show too, with seriously well-made examples of Welschriesling and Bacchus giving us a very pleasant surprise,” shared the judges. Wines of these varieties scored highly, with the judges awarding both silver and gold medals.

“The surprise of the day was the stunningly complex 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Myanmar - very well done to them,” praised the judges, greatly enjoying the balanced palate and depth of flavours.

Asian sweet wines were another high-performer, with one Chinese ice wine winning a gold medal for its complex aromas and shocking the judges with its long finish.

Our judges were pleased with the entries from Asia, and were optimistic about the future of wines from the area. “Overall, we felt the quality was very good and encouraging,” shared the judges.

Central and Eastern Europe

Sweet wines were the highlight for the Central and Eastern European category, but the judges were also keen to highlight discoveries made in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well. “There have been some great performances in the sweet wine category from Austria and Hungary,” shared Sarah Abbott MW.

“Pinot Noir showed a very diverse spectrum from light and electric versions to dark, fruit-driven wines,” said the judges who awarded several silver medals to Pinot Noir wines from England.

There was “an exciting flight of Chardonnay blends which showed ambitious winemaking and wines with real personality,” shared the panel, impressed by the individuality on show.

The panels also enjoyed the consistency across the flights. “On the Fetească Regală flight, it was interesting to see the grape variety showcasing consistently among the examples,” explained the judges.

Sweet wines were a highlight of the day for the judges, with 3 gold medals awarded to sweet wines from across the regions. “We found two golds from Tokaji which were very welcomed at the end of the day!” shared the judges with one of those wines scoring 96 points. “The panel appreciated the sweet versions of Samling,” said a judge, and awarded the wine 95 points.

Stay tuned for further judges’ deliberations and the results announcement on 20 May