IWSC 2024 Wine Judging. Judges’ deliberations on Italian wines

Wine news

Mon 13 May 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

After two excellent weeks of wine judging, the IWSC 2024 Wine Judging in London has come to a close with two days of tasting Italian wines. Our panels were co-chaired by Mick O’Connell MW and Alistair Cooper MW who both agreed that there was high quality on show across the regions of Italy.

When we judge these days, what I’m hoping for is that the overall standard is high, with a large amount of medals indicating that the general winemaking in that place is of a great standard. That’s exactly what we saw today,” explained Mick O’Connell MW.

The judges appreciated the diversity, as well as the quality of this year’s entries from Northern Italy.“We had an interesting look at Northern Italy - with a good number of medal-winning wines. We saw some great wines from Alto Adige, Barbaresco & Friuli,” shared the judges.  

The flights of Trentino – Alto Adige red wines showcased both indigenous and international varieties, with the judges highlighting a Merlot as a standout wine: “Masses of dark cassis fruit, a complex savoury nose, bright and concentrated with a lovely bright acidity, good depth and length”.

Likewise, our judges awarded several silvers to a particularly impressive flight of Pinot Grigio from Trentino. “A genuinely excellent Pinot Grigio flight from Trentino,” shared Mick O’Connell MW with the judges suprised by the intensity and purity across the wines.

Moving to Piedmont, “one of the standout flights that we had was Langhe Nebbiolo - we had really pretty wines that weren't trying too hard,” shared Mick O’Connell MW. “And to be honest, some of the flaws that we saw today were the wines where winemakers were trying too hard, putting oak on wines that don't need it and could have been delightful if they just stayed as fruit-forward wines. So we were rewarding the people who were so subtle in their winemaking today and that particular flight of Nebbiolo was fantastic in that regard.”

Unsurprisingly the Timorassos were the most interesting flight of the day for us, with us all agreeing very quickly on one gold. A super exciting variety that we all want to see more of,” shared the judges.

It was the Barolo flights that were the highlight for our judges, with that region being awarded 5 golds. “A really strong Barolo 2020 flight, with 3 golds and multiple silvers, by far the standout of the day,” shared the judges. “Each of the golds was very different. We had one fine, ethereal Barolo, one solid and ferric yet equally accomplished, and another that took a while to come around in the glass but once it did, it was one of our favourites” explained Mick O’Connell MW.

“The Valpolicellas and Amarones were as expected with a mix of styles from the lighter crunchier fruity wines to the more serious complex numbers,” said the judges, pleased to see the regularity across the styles.

Looking at Veneto, Soave wines showed consistent quality across the board, with nearly all entries awarded with medals. The best examples showed ripe fruit and floral characteristics with textured palate and ample freshness.

One of the best performing wine of the day was an oaked Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli Venezia Giulia. The wine wowed our judges with its “richly pungent style with nicely integrated oak notes, creamy vanilla, pineapple, grass and complex fruit and a savoury nutty finish”.

“It’s a pretty unique thing seeing an oaked Sauvignon Blanc from Italy,but it was one of those wines where you put your nose in the glass and straight away there was excitement and you were relishing the opportunity to taste it and the tasting didn't disappoint. It was fantastic,” said Mick O’Connell MW.

Pinot Grigio from Friuli Venezia Guila also performed well, with the judges keen to emphasise how clean and refreshing these wines were. “They performed better than the stereotype with one wine in particular demonstrating minerality, finesse and freshness which was great,” shared the judges.

Co-chair Alistair Cooper MW echoed this view, “There were some excellent Pinot Grigios that really stood out today”.

The judges tasted a variety of red and white wines from Central Italy, noting that the overall standard is high, though some wines had higher levels of alcohol. The judges appreciated the balanced examples of Chianti where alcohol was well managed and the wines showed juicy fruit character with refreshing acidity.

“We were privileged to taste a selection of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione and Brunelllo di Montalcino - and we particularly enjoyed the high standard of the former, from the 2020 vintage, awarding a number of strong silvers across both categories,” agreed the judges.

Gran Selezione is a style that has come under criticism for being overly extracted and oaky, yet we found this wasn’t the case with some really subtle, lightly touched wines that showed a gentle hand in the winery,” explained Alistair Cooper MW.

The judges also awarded a number of silver medals for Pecorino and Passarina, enjoying the freshness and delicate complexity of these wines.

The flight of Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi was enjoyable and showed good typicity with many bronze and one strong silver medal awarded to a wine that was “fruity, mineral and crisp, with good intensity of lemon and green fruit flavours and a good texture.”

Southern Italy pleasantly surprised our judges with “some good, authentic regional wines." The judges shared, “We would like to see more authenticity of more pure styles, with top points going to the most authentic and purist wines. This category is the future of Italian wines with these wines playing an important part of consumable and everyday drinking wines.”

Primitivo wines from Puglia earned many medals, including a few strong silvers, with the judges admiring one of the best examples: “ripe and jammy on the nose, balsamic, great red cherry and strawberry. Oak is well-integrated and pleasant”.

Another region that particularly impressed our judges was Sardinia. The judges appreciated the crunchy red fruit and the bright, fresh character of many Sardinian reds. We had a really good flight of Sardinian reds, which can often go many different ways and today it was great. We had one particular wine from Sardinia that just whispered and spoke of the place and the fruit - beautiful!”

Our final flight of the day was a mixture of white grape varieties and there were a few which were particularly exciting. It seems there is a desire currently to produce white wines which are crisp and simple,” shared the panel, keen to highlight the overall high quality in Southern Italy.

This was a fantastic end to the IWSC 2024 Wine Judging in London, with our judges tasting wines from all across Italy and finding quality in every region. Stay tuned for the results announcement on 20 May.