How we judge Star Wine List of the Year

From top left clockwise, Arvid Rosengren, Marc Almert, Pascaline Lepeltier, Raimonds Tomsons - recurring jury members.
Krister Bengtsson
Published 01-June-2023
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We started our awards Star Wine List of the Year to celebrate great wine lists and the teams behind them. But how do we judge them and how does the whole tour work? Here Krister Bengtsson, Star Wine List's founder, explains.

Updated 14 June 2024:

Star Wine List of the Year is our wine list celebration and competition. It started in Sweden in 2018 and has evolved to cover many countries. Here is how it works:

ENTRIES

All wine bars and restaurants in the concerned market are welcome to submit their wine list, free of charge. Check out each country event to see how you enter.
(Please note the local admission variations in the event posts for each national event.)

On this page you will find an overview of the coming Star Wine List of the Year events:

Krister Bengtsson.

CATEGORIES

We have a set of international categories for every tour that we celebrate in all markets, please check out the recent articles to see which ones they are. We also may add more categories for certain markets and certain years.

PARTNERS

There are no fees for restaurants or bars to be listed by Star Wine List or to enter the awards. Therefore we rely on good sponsors, partners, to cover our costs. But rest assured - the partners have no influence over selections of juries, finalists or winners. The partners learn about the winners on the event day, at the same time as everybody else.

JURY

The jury for each event is selected from an international panel of judges with top sommeliers such as Pascaline Lepeltier, Paz Levinson, Marc Almert and Arvid Rosengren. In addition, we usually add a local judge, such as we have done with Ruth Spivey (UK) and Edwin Raben (NL) in the past. The international jury is expanding with more judges.

CRITERIA / SCORING

The main criteria is straightforward but not simple: Vote for the most exciting wine list representing the category.

”We feel that this makes more sense than having very defined criteria, when we have many of the best sommeliers in the world in our jury panel, to give them a freer mandate to vote for lists that excite them. We also don't want to create standards that sommeliers follow. We want to be inspired, not create recipes,” says Krister Bengtsson.

For the Sustainable Wine List category, both the venue’s wine list and their application statement about their work will be evaluated. Besides the above criteria, the jury should for this category also consider the wine program’s impact, including wine growing, winemaking, packaging and transport.

Instagram post by Isa Bal MS at Trivet, winner in the UK 2021.

Besides the honour and bragging rights, the winners of the categories get a framed Gold Star Certificate to post at their venue, as well as digital badges and mentions on Star Wine List. For certain categories there are other prizes as well - that is decided per category and event, and announced during the events.

For the categories Long, Medium and Short List, decided by the number of references on the lists. This is how we define references: One line of wine on the wine list. For example if you have:
2014 Chateau Latour bottle
2015 Chateau Latour bottle
2015 Chateau Latour by the glass
2015 Chateau Latour magnum
2016 Chateau Latour bottle
This is counted by us as three references.

THE WINE LIST

The wine list submitted to the event must be a real wine list that is accessible at the venue or on the website of the restaurant/bar - or on Star Wine List. Wine lists made only for the event are not allowed (for example if the venue has stock that is hidden from the regular wine list).

The wine list should include vintages and prices. Popup venues and private wine clubs are currently not allowed, nor are wine shops without a wine bar connected. We reserve the right to verify contents of the wine list either live or through video call and the right to refuse any entries.

For the By the Glass (BTG) category, a specific wine list for the BTG, or mentions of which wines are served by the glass on the regular list, is necessary. Mentions like "all wines below a certain bottle price are served by the glass" cannot be judged properly by the jury and will not be included.

Venues that enter the awards must accept that the wine list is visible on Star Wine List - and that we put the restaurant/bar on the guide.

POSSIBLE BIAS

When a judge has any kind of influence over a list - the judge will not rate that list (if it's part of their group of restaurants, if the sommelier has worked their before and was instrumental in building the list, etc).

Winning team at PM & Vänner from our first Star Wine List of the Year in Sweden 2018.

That covered, on to a few questions we get every now and then:

HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY?

Our revenue comes from the partners/sponsors of the competition. There is currently no fee for restaurants or bars to participate in Star Wine List of the Year. (And there is no fee to be listed on the guide Star Wine List either).

MY FAVOURITE PLACE WAS NOT A FINALIST, WHY?

Either the wine list was not submitted ahead of the deadline, or it failed to get the jury votes to reach the final.

MY FAVOURITE PRIVATE CLUB OR SHOP WAS NOT A FINALIST, WHY NOT?

Star Wine List is all about going out to restaurants and wine bars, so that is what we select for Star Wine List of the Year too.

WE WERE NOT A WINNER OR NOT A FINALIST - CAN I GET FEEDBACK ON WHY AND WHAT TO DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?

Since the juries are composed by several judges and these change between every event - it is not possible for us to give feedback on what you should do differently next time. What excites one judge may be different from the jury next year. We also don't want to create templates or ideals for how wine lists should be. We want to be inspired, not create recipes. Keep building what you believe in, is our main advice.

Legal terms for Star Wine List can be found on our terms page.

Cheers

Krister Bengtsson, founder Star Wine List

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