IWSC 2024 Wine Judging. Judges’ deliberations on French wines

Wine news

Tue 7 May 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

With nearly 900 entries from all regions of France, our judges had the challenging task of selecting the most standout wines out of high-quality expressions of different grapes and styles. Our France panels spent two days rigorously working their way through the samples. The panels were overseen by the IWSC Wine Judging Committee members Alistair Cooper MW and John Hoskins MW.

One of the standout regions this year was Alsace, shared the judges who appreciated the diversity and the quality of this year’s Alsatian entries. “I really saw an uplift in the quality of Alsatian wines this year. Some beautifully fresh wines,” said Alistair Cooper MW.

Alsace Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris performed well with the judges praising both flights as “great representations of the varieties for the market.”

As for the aromatic white varieties from Alsace, the Grand Cru Rieslings really shone, noted the judges, and the Gewürztraminer flight was one of the highlights, with the best examples described as ‘exuberant and textural’ with a long finish.

It's not just the dry styles that impressed the judges: “The sweet wines from Alsace had something special about them. Even though they were rich they were still well balanced and very enjoyable,” shared our experts.

The judges were equally impressed with the Rhône region. “It's not surprising actually, given the fantastic run of vintages that the Rhône has had - they've been one of those regions that have been blessed. The 2021 was a slightly difficult vintage for the reds, but even the 2021s performed great today. It's a region I spend a lot of time in so I'm very pleased to see a good performance from them,” shared our Head Judge Alistair Cooper MW.

The judges appreciated having the opportunity to taste a broad selection of the Rhône whites many of which showed quality and skillful winemaking: “We think this category shows real potential with producers obviously working to maintain acidity despite climactic challenges,” noted the judges.

Bordeaux flights offered a fascinating diversity of styles. The wines that performed best were the ones that showed purity of fruit and represented classic styles, noted the judges, highlighting that the Left Bank was the region where the most terroir-driven wines featured. "We had a selection of oaked and unoaked Bordeaux Sauvignon, with Pessac performing particularly well," highlighted the judges.

“The sweet wines from Bordeaux shone through as the best of all, showing the best sense of place and balance in its features,” the judges shared. One of the standout sweet wines earned a gold, our experts admiring its “very generous, bold botrytis character. Very dense on the palate, with a long finish”.

The judges spoke highly of Cahors and Jura flights, noting that there were some interesting reds encompassing different styles from both regions. “On the whole, we thought the Cahors wines showed particularly well and were notable for their understated elegance,” said the judges.

Our panels were equally impressed by the Gascon whites highlighting the flights for their vibrant fruit and exceptional value. "The Gascon whites were indeed a pleasant surprise, offering a bit of joy with their zestiness and value for money," remarked the judges.

Another high-performing region from the judging this year was Chablis. Head Judge John Hoskins MW applauded the entries, noting that, "the level of quality we saw in the Chablis flights was really special. In total we awarded four gold medals to wines from that area, and awarded more silvers than bronzes for the best two flights." 

Similarly, the judges praised the nuanced expressions and ageing potential of the best Chablis: "The complexity exhibited by the Chablis wines was truly remarkable, we were particularly impressed by their agieng potential".

The judges highlighted the quality of two vintages in particular: "This year's competition showcased some exceptional vintages, with the 2021s displaying verve and precision, and the 2022s exuding generosity and charm". 

On the whole, the judges drew attention to the fact that many of the French wines on show this year were of great market value considering the high quality. "For the typically lower priced wines and regions, 2022 really shone and made what could be fairly ordinary wines delicious and expressive".

"We thoroughly enjoyed the Rivesaltes, rewarding its rich and distinctive style with a well-deserved gold," said one of our panels, admiring the region’s fortified wines.

Overall, this was an exceptional year for our French entries. As noted by John Hoskins MW, "very few wines have not got a medal, something especially impressive when you take into account that some of the wines are from regions that are known for their extremely sensible prices".

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