Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Judgement of London closes the gap in wine thinking

Best white - Dry Riesling

The win of New Zealand's best dry Riesling at The Judgement of London competition last week on Tuesday 20 May closes the gap between the terms Old World and New World, showing that great wines can and do come from all corners of the world. The overall winning wine is Pegasus Bay Riesling Bel Canto Riesling 2011, which won the top spot and two other categories, including best white wine and best textured white wine.

“My family has always made wines that we feel truly reflect our location and each season, as well as our own personal philosophies, rather than being influenced by chasing medals or scores. Having our Bel Canto Riesling selected as one of the 16 wines to represent the very best of the new world was humbling enough; however, having our wine selected as the best overall wine has left us speechless," Edward Donaldson, marketing manager for Pegasus Bay.

The win for Pegasus Bay highlights that great wine can and does come from all corners of the world, said Judgement of London judge, Sarah Abbott MW.

Wine of the week

2023 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling RRP $40

Bel Canto is Italian for beautiful singing. It's an apt description for this stunningly intense expression of one of the greatest grapes in the world of wine, which shows through here in a dry Riesling of power, beauty, richness and courage - yes courage. This wine is all about courage to make wine that reflects the producer's convictions and the place it comes from. All these qualities and more consistently shine through in this outstanding dry Riesling from North Canterbury, which is undoubtedly New Zealand's greatest Riesling region.

This wine expresses outstanding intensity of flavour captured in an incredibly refreshing dry white wine with layers of aromatic depths of dried ripe mandarin, white peach and candied lemon in a complex wine underpinned by crisp lingering acidity. 

It is no surprise to yours truly that this beautiful dry Riesling won first place nor that it was hand picked to represent just one of 16 wines from non traditional winemaking countries to be pitted against 16 traditional classic greats from the so-called Old World. It drinks consistently well in its youth and has done since the first vintage but, like all great Rieslings, Bel Canto tastes best when it is around 10 to 12 years old, as the winning wine shows (2011 Bel Canto Dry Riesling). 

Buy the latest vintage of 2023 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling from specialist wine retailers or direct here

The Judgement of London competition... was a re-inspired take on the famous and infamous blind tasting called the Judgement of Paris held on 24 May 1976 which was notorious at the time for "giving the French a kick up the bottom, said Sarah Kemp, managing director of Decanter magazine, who worked closely with the original competition's founder, the late Steven Spurrier.

Fifty years on, the concept was revived and widened, pitting top wines of Europe with those from rest of the world. The Judgement of London took place on Tuesday 20 May with 32 wines tasted over a period of four hours by 21 judges. All wines were tasted under exam conditions with eight pairs of white wines followed by eight pairs of red wines. Each pairing consisted of a European wine with a Rest of World counterpart, which was selected by the competition founders to be a similar match in terms of style. 

The 32 wines tasted are considered to be amongst the best in the world. They were selected by Sarah Abbott MW and managing director of Swirl Group and Ronan Sayburn MS who is the CEO of The Court of Master Sommeliers. 

The winners

Top scoring overall wine: 2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North

Top scoring white: 2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling Bel Canto Riesling, Waipara Valley North Canterbury

Runner up: 2012 Polish Hill Riesling, Grosset, Clare Valley, Australia  

Top scoring red: 2012 Hermitage Rouge, Jean Louis Chave, Rhône, France

Runner up: 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

“From the beginning, it was never about a winner or loser, and the results show that 50 years ago, there was a definite difference in style; now it is a much more level playing field. The so-called New World were making wines which were for a cool climate style, but in a warm climate. And obviously they had a lot of success, but were they elegant? Since Judgement of Paris, the so-called New World has better adapted to their climates, clones, and what works well. It is no longer the underdog. All these wines tasted on their own are amongst the greatest in the world, and we were asking our judges to choose amongst them.”

The full list of winners at The Judgement of London on Tuesday 20 May 2024

White wines


Rest of World: Polish Hill Riesling, Grosset, Clare Valley, Australia 2012

Europe: Trimbach, Riesling Clos St Hune, Alsace, France 2008


Europe 2018 Cervaro Della Sala, Marchese Antinori, Umbria, Italy  

Rest of World 2018 Kistler Chardonnay, Les Noisetiers, Sonoma, USA  

Europe 2017 Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Maison Louis Jadot, Burgundy, France

Rest of World 2017 Felton Road Chardonnay Block 6, Central Otago, New Zealand



Rest of World 2020 Au Bon Climat Hildegard, Santa Maria Valley, USA

Europe 2020 Terre Alte, Livio Felluga, Friuli, Italy  

Sauvignon Blanc

Europe 2017 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé, Pessac Léognan, Bordeaux FR

Rest of World 2014 Peter Michael Winery Sauvignon Blanc, L'Apres Midi, Sonoma USA


Rest of World 2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, NZ

Europe 2019 Franz Hitzberger, Grüner-Veltiner Singerriedel, Wachau, Austria


Rest of World 2011 Viognier, Tahbilk, Nagambie Lakes, Australia

Europe 2020  St Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers, Pierre Gonon, Rhône, France  

Textured red

Europe 2014 Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Dão, Portugal  

Rest of World 2019 David & Nadia Chenin Blanc, Skaliekop, Swartland, South Africa

Pinot Noir

Rest of World 2019 Storm Pinot Noir, Ridge, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa  

Europe 2017 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, Domaine Dujac, Côtes de Nuits, France

Pinot Noir

Europe 2019 Spätburgunder, Weingut Mayer-Näckel, Ahr Valley, Germany 

Rest of World 2019 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir, San Andreas, Sonoma, USA  


Rest of World 2019 Promontory Napa Valley, USA  

Europe 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France


Europe 2009 Château Léoville Las Cases, St Julien, Bordeaux, France  

Rest of World 2015 Viñedo Chadwick, Maipo Valley, Chile  


Rest of World 2018 Homage Syrah, Trinity Hill, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand  

Europe 2012 Hermitage Rouge, Jean Louis Chave, Rhône, France


Europe 2019 Saperavi Qvevri, Quevri Wine Cellar, Kakheti, Georgia  

Rest of World 2015 Clonakilla Syrah, Canberra, New South Wales, Australia  


Rest of World 2016 Torbreck Hillside Vineyard Grenache, Barossa Valley, Australia

Europe 2019 Clos Magador, Priorat, Spain  

Cabernet Franc

Europe 2018 Saumur Champigny, Clos Rougeard, Loire, France  

Rest of World 2018 Gran Enemigo, Cabernet Franc, Gualtallary, Argentina  

The judges

Elliot Awin, Partner at ABS Wine Agencies; Isa Bal MS, Consultant Sommelier, Trivet Restaurant; Richard Bampfield MW, Wine Consultant; Stephen Brook, Contributing Editor of Decanter and Author; Alistair Cooper MW, Writer, Consultant and Judge; Dawn Davies MW, Buying Director, Speciality Drinks; Gearoid Devaney MS, Director of Flint Wines and Cabotte; Sarah Jane Evans MW, Wine Writer; Tina Gellie, Content Manager for the Decanter brand;  Aleesha Hansel, Wine Writer; Daniel Illsley, Founder of Theatre of Wine; Anne Krebiehl MW, Wine Writer; Kathrine Larsen-Robert MS, Head of Fine Wine, Enotria; Adam Lechmere, Publishing Director, Académie du Vin Library; Regine Lee MW, Indigo Wine, Managing Director; Margaret Rand, Wine Writer and general editor of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine book; Laura Rhys MS, Head of Wine – Communications, Education and Style, Gusbourne; Jancis Robinson MW OBE, Wine Writer of The FT and; Patrick Schmitt MW, Editor-in-Chief, The Drinks Business; Matt Wilkin MS, Director, H2Vin and Clem Yates MW, Founder of English Pink rosé.