KWC2022: A new record
Tasting and evaluating wine requires a keen intuition and skill in expressing taste and aroma. It is how I felt while watching the so-called best sommeliers in Korea appointed as KWC2022 judges throughout the competition. We announced the results in the August issue of Wine Review. This year, KWC broke the record for the number of wine entries for the second consecutive year. It is thanks to wine producers who want to introduce the charm of their new vintages and new wines from new wine regions. Here are some interesting results this year. On July 1, the next day after the finals of the competition, the results of the KWC 2022 were announced directly through the official KWC website. Again this year, 50 best sommeliers in Korea participated as judges. They conducted a detailed evaluation and scored on the traditional 100-point scale, working under a rigorous methodology. It continued for nine days, including preliminary rounds and finals. Wine Review, the organizer, is trying to convey to participants and readers the meaningful content that can obtain by paying attention to the results of KWC 2022. This year, the number of exhibited wines is more than any other year—a total of 911 wines. Our 3 or 4 experts taste the wines individually but then discuss their scores at the end of each flight. Any wines on which scores are markedly different are re-tasted. They agree on the individual score given by each. 600 wines were selected and promoted to the finals through the preliminary round. The final result is confirmed eventually after the other 3 or 4 panelists have tasted it again. What does it mean to get Gold with a high score after going through the preliminaries and the finals? It means the judges themselves admitted that it was a lovely wine they could present confidently in the sales field where they were working. Moreover, for a wine to receive a Trophy, it is necessary to gain the sympathy of the judges for the wine's unique delicacy and sophistication, as well as a beautiful balance of structure and taste. Judges on the last day of the finals For that reason, the last day of the finals is completely devoted to selecting the Trophy. In front of 20 judges, seven wines with the highest score in Red, White, Rosé, Sparkling, Sweet, and Fortified were equally distributed. To prevent individual prejudice against wines, such as specific production regions and varieties, all of these processes, starting from the preliminary round, are evaluated blindly. The purpose of the KWC competition is to recognize and promote the quality of award-winning wines through this rigorous process. CEO Hoon Choi, who has been leading the competition since 2005, emphasized the following to the judges at the 9:30 am briefing for nine days. “The greatest strength of KWC is you. Our competition depends entirely on the level of the judges and your seriousness. The KWC's results are special and meaningful because they were selected through dignified persuasion by the best incumbent sommeliers in Korea with the same food culture as the background. If there are judges for the Decanter Awards in the UK, I believe that the judges for the Korea Wine Challenge in Korea are doing their job well enough.” It is a reality that critics and YouTubers who enjoy fame or the influence of wine applications cannot be ignored. It is, ultimately, competition for influence power. The Korea Wine Challenge does not put only 18 years of history at the forefront. Instead, I would like to emphasize that the award results came from earnest discussion and persuasion by 50 of Korea's top sommeliers. And this is the structure of the judging method that KWC pursues. It is meaningful that we selected the wine with the sympathy of many sommeliers who have become recognized wine experts within the common cultural framework of Korea. We want to thank the 50 KWC2022 judges who spared no effort in tasting with their time of seriousness and concentration. Key figures of KWC2022 The number of wines exhibited: 911, a new record. Top 4 countries that won medals in 2022: Chile (66), France (55), Italy (54), Australia (47) Countries with the Most Gold Medals in 2022: France (19), Chile (12), Italy (12), Spain (11) The number of medals awarded with Bronze or higher is 364, within 40% of all wines exhibited. Noteworthy results When we subdivided the wines awarded in this competition into countries and wine regions, the names of the major wine-producing areas are filled with names as if looking at the index of a wine encyclopedia. In particular, the total number of medals from the top 9 countries that received awards, the criterion for selecting the Best of Country, was 342, accounting for 94% of all award-winning wines. France was the leader in the Old World, followed by Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Chile was the leader in the New World, followed by Australia, United States, Argentina, and New Zealand. In particular, Chile won 66 awards, including 12 types of Trophy Rosé and Gold, confirming that wines from South America are recognized in price and taste in the Korean market. The awards were concentrated on the wines exhibited in the Central Valley region, which includes Maule Valley, Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley, Cachapoal Valley, and Curico Valley. The country closest to Chile's medal number in the New World was Australia, which won 47 medals. Among them, the number of awards for White wine stands out. In addition to the rich red wine made mainly from Shiraz, it shows that the level of White Australian wine has risen considerably. Wines performed strongly in McLaren Vale, Barossa, Clare Valley, and Adelaide Hills came out. Table 1) Top 9 Countries Medal Status of KWC2022. By winning 19 Golds, a quarter of the total number of Golds, France once again proved their consistently high quality. The Champagne region swept some of the competition's highest honors, winning a Trophy, Best of Country, and 6 Golds. But the most prominent wine-producing region in France is the Languedoc region. Languedoc was awarded a total of 13, which surpasses 12 of Champagne. Despite being the largest wine-producing region in France, Languedoc wines had a negative image as cheap wines in the past. However, we now see continued efforts to improve quality through certification of origin, such as AOC and IGP. Hundreds of motivated producers rapidly convert to regions where medium to high-quality wine of which the area is demonstrably capable. Suppose you add up the number of wines awarded in the Southwest, Roussillon, including Languedoc. You add up to 20 wines, more than a third of the total medal number in France. It is clear evidence that the world's wine landscape is changing and is an excellent example of the shifting landscape of wine in France. It is not simply due to the effects of global warming. I think it's worth paying attention to the individuality of these passionate local producers and the variety of wines they have shown their creativity. “It is clear evidence that the world's wine landscape is changing and is an excellent example of the shifting landscape of wine in France.” Italy awarded 54 medals, demonstrating the breadth of high-quality wine production. Italy is one of the world's most diverse wine-producing countries, with the most varied indigenous varieties. The results of this year's award show that even in Italy, producing regions renowned for their high quality are expanding to Tuscany and Piedmont, as well as Abruzzo and Puglia. 16 award-winning wines were from these two regions. In Spain, which won 41 medals, central La Mancha, Murcia, and Penedes emerged as notable regions. More than half of Spain's awards came from these regions. Table 2) A global overview of awarded medals of KWC2022 KWC's new challenge A global overview shows where the best medals at KWC have gone. We will also carefully read the wine regions' changes in their evolution phase. Through more thorough data analysis, we intend to support winemakers who perform well every year, including new wineries that stand out for the year. In addition, we will not neglect to find wineries that have not yet entered the Korean market. We will explain and make them understand the current state of development of the Korean wine market to participate in the competition. A total of 364 wines were selected and awarded the KWC2022 Trophy, Best of Country, Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards. I interpreted the meaning of the awards. I think the most important thing is to inform the aspects of the wines selected through the competition and let customers choose and experience those wines themselves. Through this, the ultimate goal that KWC pursues is the consumer experience. Everyone has their tastes and preferences. Mechanical measures do not explain the personal taste. Even a sommelier with extensive wine experience is no exception. Although the evaluation criteria, such as the balance, finish, aroma, flavor, and bouquet, are clear, some degree of subjectivity is always involved. Whether the taste is delicious or whether the oak touch is appropriate or not comes from each judge's experience. So there are slightly different interpretations of the exact wine on the KWC judging table made up of wine experts, who give and take subjective interpretations. As they go through the differences, each of the judges will score their scores brighter. The qualitative richness of the KWC award results comes from the empathy created by the fusion of various tastes. “The qualitative richness of the KWC award results comes from the empathy created by the fusion of various tastes” Now, a large share given to Korean wine consumers reading the results of KWC2022 is to pay attention to the value of KWC award-winning wines. We hope that consumers who choose wines with the KWC sticker will have a pleasant encounter with new wines. “Doesn’t it leave an excellent finish in your mouth?” To hear these comments from consumers, wine producers even try to switch grape varieties. And through the wines they exhibit, they want to get positive reviews from consumers about their new challenges and values. That is why producers on different continents carefully send their wines to KWC every year.