IWSC crowns top wine and spirit producers of the year in fitting 2020 style

The International Wine & Spirit Competition has revealed its top 15 trophy winners, awarded to the drinks industry’s star performers of the year, in a sparkling virtual awards ceremony.

Words by Adam Partridge

IWSC Awards Ceremony 2020 with hosts in a vineyard
Hosts David Kermode (left) and Joel Harrison wearing tuxedos was one of the few things consistent with previous IWSC awards ceremonies

For those used to attending the IWSC Awards Ceremony in the City of London’s gothic 12th-century Guildhall, this year’s event could not have been more different. Filmed on location at IWSC 2020 President Tamara Roberts’ Ridgeview Wine Estate on a sunny and unseasonably mild October day, the awards were presented by socially distanced drinks industry figures David Kermode and Joel Harrison and broadcast ‘as live’ on YouTube Premieres.

A full great hall at IWSC 2019 Banquet
The 12th-century Great Hall in London's Guildhall was full-to-bursting at last year's 50th Anniversary IWSC Awards Ceremony
David and Tamara sat on a picnic table in the open air
David Kermode interviews IWSC 2020 President Tamara Roberts in the grounds of her acclaimed Ridgeview Wine Estate

The advantage of this year’s ceremony being a virtual broadcast, however, was that it enabled both trade and consumers from around the world to watch and celebrate the awards from the comfort of their armchairs in real time (for those unable to watch live, the broadcast is still available on YouTube. Each producer gave a short acceptance speech from their own winery or distillery.

Watch the IWSC Awards Ceremony 2020 here:

The IWSC Producers of the Year trophies are the pinnacle of achievement, rewarding the overall portfolio, ethos and achievement of companies that enter the IWSC. In deciding the awards, a long list of all gold medal-winning producers is created in each of the respective categories and the top five producers are shortlisted and subjected to careful expert analysis over a number of factors, including medals, range, average score and trophy wins across all the IWSC 2020 results before an overall winner is arrived at.

The 58 Gin team at their distillery
The team at London's 58 Gin appeared on-screen to accept their award

In the spirits categories, London’s 58 Gin took the UK Gin Producer gong, a remarkable achievement for a new disruptor in a crowded category. The company was founded by an Australian sea captain who docked in London with a vision to create the finest gins, all while creating a responsible and sustainable neighbourhood business (during the UK’s first lockdown earlier this year, the company switched to producing only hand sanitiser, which it donated to the NHS and key workers). Commenting on the win, 58 Gin’s CEO Carmen O’Neill said: “To be awarded UK Gin Producer of the Year is a huge accomplishment and we feel so humbled to be acknowledged among so many gin businesses in the UK.”

Meanwhile, the International Gin Producer trophy was taken by Four Pillars Gin from Australia, which scooped the award for the second year in a row. And shaking up the status quo, Finnish distillery Teerenpeli Panimo & Tislaamo took the Worldwide Whiskey Producer trophy. The distiller started out in 2002 with a handmade Scottish copper pot to create a Finnish single malt, and in 2015 opened its second distillery, which is now the largest in Finland.

The rum trophy was won by Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs of Martinique, which also scooped the overall Outstanding Spirits Producer of the year award. The distillery is behind the production of the smallscale, PDO-protected agricole rum, one of a growing band of rums to have geographic terms attached to its production. “Agricole rum is still a small category on the international stage and this award is true recognition of our premium rums Trois Rivières and La Mauny,” said Nathalie Guillier-Tual CEO.

Christian Moravie
Christian Moravie, director of agriculture at Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs, which won the Outstanding Spirits Producer of the Year trophy
Daniel Baudin
Daniel Baudin: Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs' cellar master

In the wine categories, one of the headline acts was England’s Langham Wine Estate, which took the Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year title. “For a relatively small, single-vineyard estate to have achieved such prestigious international recognition is fantastic not just for me but for all of us – especially given the depth and breadth of the competition,” said Justin Langham, owner and founder. The Langham team boasts the UK’s youngest head winemaker, Tommy Grimshaw. Having  begun working at Sharpham Vineyard in Devon during his A-Levels, Grimshaw decided that, rather than complete the required resits, he’d take a full-time role at Sharpham, where he stayed for five years before landing his role at Langham.


Langham team
Tommy Grimshaw (top), of trophy-winning sparkling wine producer Langham, is the UK's youngest head winemaker

Other wine producers celebrating included France’s La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim, named White Wine Producer of the Year; the family-owned Peller Estates, whose founder Andrew Peller arrived in Canada with just $5 to his name but took the Sweet Wine Producer trophy for its remarkable ice wines; and Morris Wines in Australia, which, in a stunning achievement, took both the Fortified Wine Producer title and that of Outstanding Wine Producer.

“This is the strongest show in the world and with great entries from around the globe we’re very proud to win it”, commented David Morris, chief winemaker.

Katie and Jason
Peller Estates' winemaker Katie Dickinson & executive chef Jason Parsons
Peller Estate with Snow
Sub zero: it's only when the temperature dips below -10ºC that Peller Estates picks the grapes used for its award-winning ice wines

Drawing the 2020 Awards Ceremony to a close, host David Kermode reflected on this year’s IWSC and how even in the toughest circumstances the wine and spirits industry rose to the occasion. “This event could not have happened without the support from all the judges attending the judging sessions in challenging circumstances, and all the producers who trusted the IWSC to appraise their wines.”

Scroll down to view the shortlists and winners of each award and search the full listing of trophy winners here.

Sparkling Wine Producer

  • Maison Mumm, France
  • Gusbourne, England
  • Le Bertole, Italy
  • Langham Wine Estates, England – Winner

White Wine Producer

  • La Chablisienne, France
  • Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim, Germany
  • Leo Buring, Australia
  • La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim, France – Winner

Red Wine Producer

  • Fortant, France
  • Rioja Vega, Spain
  • Rutini, Argentina
  • Wolf Blass Wines, Australia – Winner

Sweet Wine Producer

  • Royal Tokaji, Hungary
  • Estate Argyros, Greece
  • Mad Wine, Hungary
  • Peller Estates, Canada – Winner

Liqueur Producer

  • Bimmerle Private Distillery, Germany
  • Hombo Shuzo Wine & Spirits – Winner
  • Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits, Spain
  • Mozart (by Schlumberger Wein-und Sektkellerei), Austria

Brandy Producer

  • Château du Breuil, France
  • Bodegas Fundador, Spain
  • Maison Boutillier, France
  • Château de Pellehaut, France – Winner

UK Gin Producer, Sponsored by The Gin Guild

  • City of London Distilling, England
  • Wessex Distillery, England
  • Whitley Neil/JJ Whitley, England
  • 58 Gin, England – Winner

International Gin Producer, Sponsored by The Gin Guild

  • Kangaroo Island Distillery, Australia
  • Hernö Gin, Sweden
  • Zamora Company, Spain
  • Four Pillars Distillery, Australia – Winner

Vodka Producer, Sponsored by Double Dutch

  • Dom Wina, Poland
  • Halewood International, England
  • Stalinskaya, Romania – Winner

Rum Producer, Sponsored by William Grant & Sons: Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs, Martinique

  • La Maison & Velier, Barbados
  • Worthy Park Estate, Jamaica
  • R L Seale, Barbados
  • Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs, Martinique – Winner

Worldwide Whiskey Producer

  • Kavalan Distillery, Taiwan
  • Sazerac Company, Canada
  • The Lark Distillery, Australia
  • Teerenpeli Brewery & Distillery, Finland – Winner

Scotch Whisky Producer

  • Distell, Scotland
  • Chivas Brothers, Scotland
  • Dewars Whisky, Scotland
  • Whyte & Mackay, Scotland
  • William Grant & Sons, Scotland – Winner

Outstanding Spirit Producer

•            Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs, Martinique

Outstanding Wine Producer

  • Morris Wines, Australia