Bristol-based independent wine competition the Independent English Wine Awards (IEWA) has announced the results of its annual English wine competition, indicating that the quality of English grown, English produced wine continues to rise, and that across the country, medal-winning quality, world class wines are being crafted.

Consumer focused, and with the aim of awarding, promoting and celebrating the best of English wine, IEWA judging took place on Saturday 23 March at the Rummer Hotel in Bristol’s atmospheric old quarter. The wine competition – now in its third year – saw 24 judges blind taste 132 wines from 63 producers under controlled conditions. 

Two trophies were awarded, for sparkling and still categories, with both going to Sussex’s South Downs; the sparkling trophy was won by celebrated sparkling wine specialist Wiston Estate for its Brut NV, and the still trophy went to focused English still wine producer Stopham Estate for its Pinot Gris 2017.   

“All of us at Wiston are utterly thrilled to have won the IEWA best sparkling trophy,” said Kirsty Goring, marketing director at Wiston Estate. “We are acutely aware that the standard of English sparkling wine continues to rise all around us and this makes it feel even more of an honour to receive such an award. Our Brut NV is a wine right at the heart and soul of all we do here at Wiston. To have our house style recognised in this way is a huge encouragement and something we are immensely proud of.”  

On claiming the top spot for still wines – for the second year running – Simon Woodhead, Winemaker at Stopham Estate said: “We are so proud winning the best still wine trophy for our Pinot Gris two years in a row at the brilliant Independent English Wine Awards. We’re in the heart of Sussex, and we try to translate the diversity of the South Downs – from the cool, breeze and rain to the bright, sun-drenched hillsides – into every bottle of our English wine. It’s a thrill to see it appreciated like this.”

The standard of the wines was high, particularly with reference to the sparkling wines, and from the total 132 entries a record 22 wines won gold medals, 36 scored silver and 48 achieved bronze medal status – an 80% medal frequency mirroring the results from the IEWA’s 2018 competition.

 Another standout gold medal went to Cornwall, with Polgoon vineyard picking up gold for their debut Sauvignon Blanc, from the eagerly awaited 2018 vintage.

“To win a gold for our very first Sauvignon, from our very first release from the potentially legendary crop of 2018 is amazing,” said John Coulson, winemaker at Polgoon. “One of the judges ended their note with ‘happy!’ – and that makes me a very happy winemaker!”

Judging was overseen by Master of Wine Liam Steevenson, with fellow Master of Wine John Atkinson MW, broadcaster and journalist Susy Atkins, and Devon-based winemaker Ben Hulland also heading up judging panels of six judges, made up of expertise from not only the world of wine, but also a number of knowledgeable consumers.  

“Never has the quality of English wine been higher,” said Chair of judges Liam Steevenson MW. “The gold medal winners were all outstanding, and the trophy winners comfortably world class. Wiston’s Brut NV is as fine a sparkling wine as you will find anywhere in the world. Champagne, you can stop looking over your shoulder… we are right up there alongside you now! And Stopham’s Pinot Gris is becoming a bit of a favourite of this competition, with an acid line that actually many Pinot Gris around from the world lack, and real complexity and balance.”

“I have judged Wine Competitions all over the world, and I honestly feel that the IWEA is not only one of the best organised, but with a selection of judges selected for their expertise in English Wine, I feel it is one of the best quality and most conclusive. I genuinely trust the results of the IWEA ahead of any wine competition I can think of.”

Speaking after the event, competition founder and Bristol based marketer Alexander Taylor commented on the diversity and “thrilling capability” of English wine. 

“The vast majority of wines from the ‘perfect vintage’ of 2018 have yet to come online, but I wonder if that incomparable growing year has unlocked an exciting new chapter for English wine?” said Taylor. “In wine terms that judgement will have to wait, but in marketing and PR terms I certainly hope so, with more people taking notice of, drinking, and celebrating English wine now than ever before. The world is now watching, and from the evidence of these results English wine looks to be taking its opportunity.”