Decanter – part of Future plc – this week announced the winners in the world’s largest wine awards, after an innovative event which is anticipated to deliver £3.5m in revenue despite being held during a global lockdown.
Over 28 days, 116 expert wine judges tasted 16,518 wines from 56 countries to determine the winners. The event was hosted at Decanter’s HQ in Canary Wharf with adaptations to the process made to strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Now in their 17th year, the winners’ announcement drove record breaking traffic to decanter.com and garnered international press coverage.
Paul Newman, Managing Director, Tech Lifestyle, says: “The wine industry is experiencing huge challenges due to COVID-19 and the Decanter World Wine Awards has always been really important to producers. Seeing that a wine has been presented with a Decanter World Wine Awards medal indicates to consumers that they can trust they are buying a good bottle, it creates a point of difference on the shelf and influences sales. We had all the submitted wines in a warehouse ready to be tested and it felt more important than ever that we supported the industry by pulling out all the stops, despite the logistical challenge posed by a global pandemic.”
Victoria Stanage, Decanter Head of Events & Awards explains: “One of the most important areas we focused on in our planning was ensuring the pandemic did not have a negative impact on the judging process, guaranteeing the best outcome for the wines. To do this, we brought in an independent Health & Safety consultant to review our processes and confirm the safest, most comfortable way to carry out the tasting. This allowed the judges to focus on the wine judging in a familiar way without compromising their safety.” Stanage continues “as the first wine tasting of this scale, since the pandemic started, we were dedicated to making sure that every measure we implemented stood up to scrutiny in hopes that we could help pave the way for more industry events to return safely.”
Some of the safety measures that were put in place included:
- PPE, temperature checks, staggered arrival times, sanitisation stations and isolated tasting areas with designated facilities.
- A world-first, the team developed in-house a bespoke, disposable spittoon that contained an expanding antibacterial powder, turning tasted wine into a gel, avoiding the risk of potential spillages.
- Judges and staff were required to wear a proximity tag that buzzed to alert them if within two metres of another.
- The event space was configured to ensure a one-way system, judges were stationed at a minimum of 2m apart and when not tasting, judges were required to wear a face mask.