The Judging Process

The IWSC way of judging…the 7-point checklist to what makes us different.

  1. Dedicated judging premises at IWSC HQ

  2. Custom built cellar to store submitted wines & spirits

  3. Judging schedule over 7 months of the year

  4. Samples served in numbered glasses

  5. At least 7 judges per panel

  6. Nearly 400 judges from over 30 countries

  7. Second round chemical analysis of winners

Winning a coveted IWSC award isn’t easy but that’s what makes the medal so well respected among trade and consumers alike. Our panels of handpicked industry experts judge entries over 7 months of the year to ensure a considered approach to tasting is adhered to for each and every product.

The Competition runs a structured and rigorous two-stage judging process, first using the ‘double blind’ judging method meaning samples are tasted in pre-poured numbered glasses so that judges never see a bottle.

Judges taste no more than 60 samples a day to avoid palate fatigue and each product is judged by a whole panel in sync allowing for group discussions.

The second stage of the judging is the detailed chemical and microbiological analysis which is undertaken by an independent third party to identify "show products" that may not be the true representation of the product that consumers would buy from the shelf. The Competition’s independent Technical & Judging Committee meet once a quarter to ensure the upmost integrity, accuracy and impartiality during the judging process.

Judging procedure

How it works

All entrants are sorted by our in house WSET diploma qualified tasting managers into flights for tasting. The spirits are tasted by style, region (if applicable), age and ABV while wines are tasted by variety, type, region, area and vintage.

Samples are presented in flights of numbered glasses to avoid the possibility of judges being influenced by the shape, weight, packaging or crest of a particular bottle. Judges are provided with an IWSC crib sheet and given the basic parameters of the class being assessed. Samples are initially assessed quietly; and without comment, then scores are collected by the panel chair and an open discussion is held. When judges are unable to reach a majority decision, flights will be referred to another panel.

Judging takes place over 7 months of the year in the Competition’s dedicated tasting premises. Judges are strictly prohibited from entering the Competition cellar and preparation area and before, during or after Competition judging sessions. All results remain confidential until officially released.

Wines and spirits that win the top awards then go forward to a second round of judging to compete for national, regional and international trophies.

Chemical analysis

The Competition randomly select winners to undergo official technical analysis by Campden BRI. In some instances, the results of this analysis may lead to marks being deducted (affecting the level of an award) or even outright rejection. The aim of the testing is to eliminate products which may be organoleptically attractive now but which may begin to change over time, e.g. oxidization or increased levels of volatile acid.

  • Wine analysis
    This analysis covers free and total sulphur dioxide, iron, copper, total acidity, volatile acidity (acetic acid), pH, ascorbic acid, sugar, alcohol, sugar free extract and microbiology. In addition, certain wines will be screened by gas chromatography for methanol, sorbitol and other potential contaminants.
  • Spirit analysis
    This analysis will always include alcohol and sugar content, as well as screening for possible illegal additives by gas chromatography techniques.

Why do we need 4 bottles?

  1. The first bottle is for the initial round of judging
  2. The second bottle is for the chemical analysis
  3. The third is for a second round of judging if the product goes forward for a trophy
  4. The final bottle is contingency in case a bottle is out of condition or damaged in transit (the IWSC provides entrants a second chance rather than giving the initial product an unfairly judged low score)

Why all the deadlines?

The deadlines are carefully planned each year to reflect differences in the global wine harvests around the world in order to present the newest, freshest products to the judging panels.

For example, the deadline for New Zealand wine entries is as late as possible to ensure we can accept 2016 vintages into the 2016 competition.

As all entries are received into the Competition’s dedicated cellars, the multiple deadlines help with precise cellar management to ensure each bottle received is stored correctly and treated with the care and consideration it deserves. Each product received is unpacked by experienced Competition staff and cellared accordingly to remain in the best condition for judging. The multiple deadlines also allow the judging process to be staggered over a 7 month period ensuring the judges only taste a maximum number of wines and / or spirits per judging session.

Marking system

Gold Outstanding 93 and above
Quality of the highest order

Gold 90 – 92
Superior example; setting the standard

Silver Outstanding 86 – 89
Outstanding example; excellent quality

Silver 80 – 85
Fine example; excellent quality

Bronze 75 – 79
Good example; well above average

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