The British wine expert Robert Joseph founded the magazine "Wine International" together with Charles Metcalfe in 1983, which was renamed "Wine & Spirit International" in 2005. At the same time, the "International Wine Challenge" wine competition and later the "International Spirit Challenge" competition was also launched. Joseph also held the position of Chairman, but retired after the magazine, including the International Wine Challenge, was sold to the newspaper publisher William Reed in 2005. In the first year, a modest 38 wines were judged, today the number is up to 10,000 a year, making IWC the world's largest and most prestigious event of its kind, rightly called "The world's largest wine competition" in its subtitle. The competition is chaired by Charles Metcalfe, Derek Smedley (MW), Tim Atkin (MW) and Sam Harrop (MW). It is held annually. The wines must be submitted by the end of March. The tastings take place two weeks in April in London.
The wine evaluation is carried out by 400 to 500 professional tasters in the form of blind tastings. None of the jurors are from the circle of producers. Flights (groups) of 8 to 14 bottles each of similar wines are compared - for example, only wines from Meursault. Only wines with a minimum of 85 points (out of a maximum of 100) will make it to the second round, which is usually around 60%. However, special judges take care that no wine is unfairly eliminated. For the five categories Sparkling Wines, White Wines, Fortified Wines, Red Wines and Sweet Wines gold (95 to 100 points), silver (90 to 94) and bronze (85 to 89) medals will be awarded. In each category, a gifted winemaker or producer is also awarded the coveted title of "Winemaker of the Year". Producers who have consistently delivered top performance for at least five years are awarded the prestigious "Trophy".
The "Awards" are announced one month later in May, the "Trophys" in June. In September there is an award dinner to which all winners are invited. At this dinner the best wine from each category will be announced as "Champion Trophy Wines" as the final result from the gold medal winners. At the 2008 event, over 9,000 wines were submitted by 1,435 producers from 39 countries. 267 gold, 1,257 silver and 2,140 bronze medals were awarded. The most successful countries were France (696), Australia (587) and Spain (381). Among the 116 Trophys, the most successful were France (20), Australia (18), Portugal (13), Italy (10) and Spain (8). In honour of the five-time "Winemaker of the Year" Alois Kracher (1959-2007) from Austria, the "Sweet Wine Trophy" was renamed the "Alois Kracher Trophy". In 2019 the IWC acted as sponsor of the World's Best Vineyards competition. See also under awards and wine events.