We started 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 thing work? Here Krister Bengtsson, Star Wine List's founder, explains.
Star Wine List of the Year is our wine list celebration and competition. Just like Star Wine List it started in Sweden. Back in 2018 we joined forces with the Swedish Sommelier Association to create a wine day together. The association celebrated Best Sommelier of Sweden and we held our first Star Wine List of the Year to highlight top wine lists. It was a win-win and we have built on it since then, and expanded the celebration to more countries.
We are just now on our Global 2020-2021 tour, in partnership with Austrian Wine.
Given the situation 2020 and 2021 we might call this the Lockdown tour - so many places are closed and others have sold out their lists. We understand the difficulties but have decided to push on, to raise a glass to the teams and look forward when we can go back out again. Judging by the response from many sommeliers, at least we have contributed with some good news in a dark time. That is what we hope for!
Here is how it works:
All venues that are listed by Star Wine List are automatically entered into the competition, free of charge. All other venues are also welcome to submit a wine list, free of charge. In fact, anyone is welcome to nominate a venue. For the UK the deadline was Jan 31 and we had more than 100 venues this first time.
CATEGORIES & PARTNERS
We have a set of five "global" categories that we repeat in each location: Grand Prix, Best Austrian list, By the Glass, Best Short list and Special Jury Prize (read more about them here on the site). In addition to this, we sometimes add local categories where we have local partners/sponsors. In the UK this is for example Best Rhone list and Best California list. (We welcome new partners both internationally and locally, so if your country, region or brand wants to join the conversation and build relationships - please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
The jury is an international panel of judges with top sommeliers such as Pascaline Lepeltier, Paz Levinson, Marc Almert and Arvid Rosengren. We often add a local judge like recently Ruth Spivey (UK) and Edwin Raben (NL).
CRITERIA / SCORING
The jury is asked to each independently rate their favorite wine lists in each category, while considering width, depth, originality and value. The combined scores give an average which is then used to decide finalists and winners. After having submitted the scores individually, the jury has a conference call to discuss the lists and arrive at a final decision. No external partner, sponsor or person has any influence on the jury decision.
Besides the honour and bragging rights, the winners of the categories get a Gold Star Certificate to post in 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.
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. Specially made wine lists for the event are not allowed (for example if the venue has stock that is hidden from the regular wine list). We reserve the right to verify contents of the wine list either live or through video call and the right to refuse any entries.
When a judge has some kind of influence over a list - the judge will not rate the list (if it's part of their group of restaurants etc). Special case to mention: Since long before the start of Star Wine List I have been an investor in the London restaurant/magazine Noble Rot as one of my friends is a co-founder. I am not part of the Star Wine List jury, but if I had been, I would not have rated Noble Rot.
Alright, 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.
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Cheers Krister Bengtsson, founder Star Wine List