Judging The World of Fine Wine World’s Best Wine Lists

The World of Fine Wine is known throughout the world for its high editorial standards. So when the decision was taken to launch the World’s Best Wine Lists awards, we were anxious to ensure they reached the same levels of quality and rigor as the award-winning journal.

To do this we first considered the judges who were to be given the task of deciding on our winners, an assembly of some of the most respected names in the world of wine.

Importantly, given the global nature of the awards, the judging panel we formed was genuinely international.

The Senior Judges

Joining the chairman, WFW editor, Neil Beckett, were WFW contributing editor, Andrew Jefford; the World’s Best Sommelier 2010, Gerard Basset MS MW; WFW columnist and food editor, Francis Percival; author and wine and spirits columnist for Bloomberg News, Elin McCoy; publisher of The Singapore Wine Review, and wine columnist for Singapore's largest circulation Chinese newspaper, the Lianhe Zaobao, Ch’ng Poh Tiong; and Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia author and globally respected Champagne expert, Tom Stevenson.

Criteria

Though the breadth and depth of the range of each restaurant considered in the awards inevitably formed an important part of the judges’ considerations, the winners were not simply those with the biggest lists. Creativity, relevance to the cuisine, personality, and price were equally significant criteria.

As Neil Beckett explains: “These are the first awards to acknowledge the importance of a good wine selection in the modern dining experience all over the world. As we were judging, we had in mind Francis Percival’s wise words about the difference between ‘a great wine list and a mere list with great wines on it,’ and we found many that conformed to that idea. We were hugely impressed by the range of high-quality entries, and had a pleasantly difficult time settling on our very deserving winners.”

THE PROCESS

The judging took place over four rounds, beginning with a worldwide search for nominations which culminated in a list of around 4,000 candidate restaurants, in six regions: Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, North America, and South America.

These restaurants were asked to submit a representative wine list, on which our judges would base their decisions.

Those entries were whittled down first to a group of 1,000 restaurants that were adjudged to be deserving of recognition of at least one star in our ranking system.

A further round of judging by our first-tier judges (including IWSC Communicator of the Year 2014, Jane Parkinson, respected British food and wine writer, Natasha Hughes, and Neil Beckett), arranged those 1,000 into one-, two-, or three-starred restaurants, with three-stars as the highest award.

Next, the senior judges were sent the three-star wine lists from their respective regions of expertise (North America for Elin McCoy, for example, or Asia for Ch’ng Poh Tiong), to develop shortlists in a variety of categories in each region: Best Wine List, Best Champagne & Sparkling Wine List, Best Dessert & Fortified Wine List, and Best By-the-Glass Wine List.* All of the shortlists were then circulated to all of the senior judges, who were each asked to rank their top three lists in each category and return their results to be collated with those of the other judges.

These results were assembled for a judging meeting in London in April, where the final winners in each of the regional categories were decided, along with those for Airlines and Short Wine Lists, before the final vote was taken on the Best in the World, the very highest honors, in each category.

A number of special Jury Prizes were also awarded to restaurant lists that showed distinctive character and flair, or were particularly strong in a specific wine style.

* Where a judge had a potential commercial conflict of interest involving a specific restaurant, he or she did not vote in the relevant category.