International critics will judge the best of Chile’s wines

Judges will be arriving from around the world in January for three days of sniffing, sipping and spitting before this year’s winners are announced.

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Chile’s most important annual wine event is just around the corner and the panel of 13 international judges from places as diverse as China, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and Brazil has been unveiled.

Judges for the 8th Annual Wines of Chile Awards include Andreas Larsson, the World Sommelier Champion in 2007, Jeannie Cho Lee, a Master of Wine representing China, and Josh Greene, publisher of the US-based Wine & Spirits magazine.

They arrive in Chile on Jan. 7 and will be whisked away for three days to the beautiful landscape of San Pedro de Atacama in the world’s driest desert.

They then spend three days tasting wines in Santiago and judging the competitors, with the winners announced at a gala dinner on the evening of Jan.13.

Around 200 industry people attended the awards ceremony last year when the results of the competition were announced. The ceremony saw some relative newcomers walking away with trophies.

For example, O. Fournier, with its 35-hectare winery in the region of Lo Abarca in San Antonio Valley, won the Red Blend trophy for its Centauri Blend 2008, Maule Valley.

However last year’s top prize – Best in Show – was won by the well-established Viña San Pedro, which grows fruit across a spectrum of different valleys in Chile, from the north to the south.

The year 2010 has been good for the Chilean wine industry, as bottled wine sales increased 12.2 percent between Nov. 2009 and Oct. 2010, compared with the year before.

Already the seventh largest producer in the world and the fifth largest exporter (after Italy, France, Spain and Australia), the organization Wines of Chile has laid out the industry’s plans to maintain an annual growth rate of 9.2 percent over the next decade.

A full list of this year’s judges can be found at the Wines of Chile website.