After a two-year enforced break caused by the pandemic, the prestigious international wine competition Danube Wine Challenge took place on 20-24 October 2021. Once again, it was held at the iconic Château Béla Hotel under the guidance of the project’s Executive Director, oenologist and international wine evaluator Edita Ďurčová. The organisers managed to assemble a stellar jury, which included top international tasters from sixteen countries around the world, including Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The Danube Wine Challenge is the top event of the wine year not only in Slovakia, but also in Central Europe. In addition to being held under the high patronage of the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), it is also a fully affiliated member of the World Federation of Major International Wine and Spirits Competitions (VINOFED), which brings together eighteen prestigious competitions in twelve countries on four continents. The organisers of as many as eight of them – Vinalies Internationales Paris, Mondial du rosé, Bacchus Madrid, Mondial des Vins Blancs Strasbourg, Mondial des Pinots, Mondial du Merlot, Mondial des Vins Extremes and, of course, the Danube Wine Challenge – have met in Slovakia.

In total, the judges evaluated more than 500 wines from 11 countries (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Australia, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Serbia and Northern Macedonia). Slovak wines were the most represented (60%). The competition was dominated by white (40%) and red (33%) still wines, but of course there were also sparkling wines, wines with residual sugar and rare naturally sweet wines. Another interesting feature of this competition was the category of white wines with maceration (orange wines), which was officially recognised last year by an OIV resolution. Simon Woolf, a renowned expert on this style of wine and an assessor and correspondent for Decanter, was a member of the tasting panel.

Under the strict rules of the OIV, no more than thirty percent of all wines judged in a competition under its auspices may be awarded medals. The high quality level of this year’s Danube Wine Challenge is evidenced by the fact that many wines that scored more than 84 points, which is the threshold for a silver medal, were left without an award. The 30% limit meant that medals could only be awarded from a score of 87.25 points onwards.  In the end, of the wines entered, 11 products were awarded a Double gold medal, 115 a Gold medal and 25 a Silver medal. Slovak winemakers took away 8 Double gold, 72 Gold and 13 Silver metals from the competition.

In addition, other special awards were given. Prix VINOFED – Danube Wine Challenge 2021 for the overall highest rated still dry wine (up to 4 g/l res. sugar, regardless of colour: white, rosé or red) was awarded to the Slovak red wine Amicius Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Amicius, Bátorove Kosihy, South Slovakia). The Champions of the Danube Wine Challenge 2021 were the winners of the final tasting (Master Tasting): in the category of still dry white wine – Gilvesy Varadi Furmint 2018 (Gilvesy Winery, Badacsony, Hungary) and in the category of dry red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Chateau Kamnik, Macedonia).  The Trophy for Best Grüner Veltliner goes to the Slovak winery IR – Víno Rariga for Veltlínske zelené 2018 and the trophy for Best Blaufränkisch (Frankovka) goes to the Austrian winery Esterházy Wein for Blaufränkisch Leithaberg DAC St. Georgen 2019. This award is given to the highest scoring still dry white or red wine of the respective variety (up to 4 g/l res. sugar). The Category Winners (highest-ranked wines) are announced in the other categories according to the Statutes.

The Slovak winery KARPATSKÁ PERLA from Šenkvice was awarded the Special prize for the Best Wine Collection of the Danube Wine Challenge 2021. Aurelius cibébový výber 2018 from this winery was also the highest rated wine from Slovakia and the absolute highest in the whole competition, when the jury awarded it a record 96 points and a Double gold medal.

You can see the overall results here >>

An important part of the Danube Wine Challenge project are expert lectures, presentations, visits to wineries, guided wine tastings  accompanied by local gastronomy. This year, the guest speakers focused on the topic of hybrids and crosses, with a keynote lecture by one of the most famous ampelographers in the world, Professor Jean-Michel Boursiquot from Montpellier (FR). Similarly, a discussion on the Welschriesling variety led by Elizabeth Gabay MW resonated, accompanied by a sampling of Slovak wines. Both lectures were commented by Frank Smulders MW, who has been working with Slovak winemakers since last year and selects wines mainly for the Russian market.

The President of VINOFED, Fernando Gurucharri, was also at the competition two years ago, then as Commissioner of the OIV and VINOFED, to assess whether the Danube Wine Challenge met the strict criteria for patronage of the former and for admission to the latter. This year, he returned here with enthusiasm and, as he said, all qualitative expectations were met despite the difficult period. The President spared no praise: “The magnificent setting of the Manor House has created unique working conditions for the tasters. The beautiful landscape, the hospitable, friendly, cultured and educated people, the excellent wines and the rich Central European gastronomy all provide excellent conditions not only for the competition itself, but also for the development of eno-gastronomic tourism.”

Igor Štumpf, president of the Danube Wine Challenge, added: “This is an opportunity to highlight quality wines also from smaller winemakers, for whom similar competitions abroad are financially and logistically unavailable. Renowned international tasters have come to Slovakia to evaluate our wines and report on them to the whole wine world.”

Edita Ďurčová, Executive Director of the competition, added: “Wine is an emissioner of good news about the country. No other product can capture the attention of modern travellers eager to discover new regions and experience them through local wine and cuisine. We must take every opportunity at home and abroad to promote Slovakia as an attractive tourist destination through our wines.”

Jürgen Gruber, General Manager of Hotel Chateau Béla, added: “I was surprised, but we had many guests who came to us just for wine tourism!” Everyone agreed that wine is an essential element of communication, it is the best and most pleasant ambassador of one’s country.

The organisers would like to thank all the partners and sponsors who, despite the difficult epidemiological situation, made it possible to hold the Danube Wine Challenge 2021 at the highest level, which was confirmed by the evaluations of the OIV and VINOFED experts present and other members of the tasting jury.

Main partner/ sponsor of the event: Hotel Chateau Béla

Event partners/ sponsors: Slovakia Travel, RONA, Wein Burgenland, Purgina, Bóna Labels, SOŠ hotelových služieb a obchodu Nové Zámky, EVIRS, SVA, Národní vinařské centrum, Bricol, Real K, Chateau Rúbaň, Lucka – tvoj vodný svet, Caffé Trieste, ZAX – hand made chocolate, Vinohrady Jasová, Martin Sloboda,…

Návštevy vinárstiev a degustácie: Vinárstvo Chateau Belá, ViaJur, Vinárstvo Zlatý Roh, Slobodné vinárstvo, Víno Magula, Kasnyik – rodinné vinárstvo, Vinárstvo Berta, Strekov 1075, Bott Frigyes a ďalší.