THIS time of year is when the UK’s wine award-winners are announced. A few weeks back, thousands of wines were sniffed, swirled and assessed by a whole troop of judges
The International Wine Challenge, for example, uses some 300 judges over its two-week assessment period.
Some judges are wine luminaries, like Oz Clarke and author Jamie Goode; others are supermarket buyers or fellow journalists, but many are just committed enthusiasts. Their accumulated wisdom produces a list of winners that serves as a pretty reliable wine guide.
The winners are as diverse as the people who select them. Wines costing three-figure sums or which are unavailable in the UK take their place beside supermarket bottles costing under a tenner – and that end of the spectrum is the focus for this column.
Starting with whites, the 2010 Chablis harvest was stunningly good, so it was no surprise to see it well represented in the winners. Typical of the quality on show was 2010 Morrisons Best Chablis (£9.99), with multi-layered, soft fruit and crunchy apple flavours. This vintage may not be in stores until autumn so try the silver medallist while you wait – 2011 Morrisons Best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99).
It is also good to see high praise go to Spain’s 2010 Tesco Finest Albariño Pazo Serantellos (£7.99), with its fruit-salad flavours and greengage-based central theme. Awarding it gold, the IWC judges enjoyed its “harmonious and elegant palate and its beautiful white peach and apple blossom hue”.
In the fizz, the International Wine and Spirits Competition awarded a Silver Outstanding to Champagne Comte de Brismand Brut Réserve (£14.99, Lidl), which impressed me with its simplicity, its ability to sit between apple-centred freshness and the biscuity depth of more serious champagnes – and the incredible value for money it represents. It significantly outpointed several much more expensive versions.
Top-level prosecco is also gaining recognition. La Marca Cuvée Prosecco Superiore (£10.99, Majestic) is doing well, with excellent balance and lovely soft apple and apricot flavours.
Among the reds, 2009 Extra Special New Zealand Pinot Noir (£10.18, Asda) caught my eye – the 2010 may be in some stores. It shows why Kiwi pinot is so popular, combining subtle tannins with vibrancy and ripeness in its raspberry, cherry and bramble fruit.
The Rhône had excellent harvests in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and these have generated excellent prize-winners. Understandably, many carry hefty price tags, but the 2010 Marks & Spencer Crozes Hermitage (£11.99), with all the beefy, black pepper influences you expect from good syrah, plus rich black cherry fruit and nicely balanced tannin, is astonishingly good value.
A top-notch rioja is 2001 The Society's Exhibition Rioja Gran Reserva (£25, The Wine Society), which won a gold award at the IWC. It delivers classic spicy, cherry flavours and rounded complexity that is softened by toasty vanilla touches (courtesy of three years in American and French oak).
Lovers of fortified wines have not been left out because the coffee and salted caramel touches of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Oloroso Sherry (£7.99 – down to £7.49 until Tuesday) won it gold at the IWC. Its identically priced Taste the Difference Pedro Ximenez Sherry achieved the same award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition and provides, as you would expect, a sweeter, spicy, nutty and figgy style.
Whatever your taste, you can use these competitions to help you buy reliable wine with confidence. In addition, this review should let you do so without risking too much money.
2010 Cono Sur Bicycle Pinot Noir Central Valley, Chile, 13.5 per cent
An ideal everyday pinot (and you can’t say that often), with red cherry and raspberry fruit, lively acidity and an overall lightness. It has very gentle tannin yet a firm peppery finish – an excellent summer red. £5.99 (down from £7.59 until Sunday), Morrisons
2011 Gascogne Blanc Cuvée Spéciale Côte de Gascogne, France, 11.5 per cent This is a juicy, yet textured white from the excellent Plaimont Producteurs, with crisp, clean lemon and green apple fruit and giving a nod to sauvignon blanc as well as the colombard and ugni blanc from which it is made. £5.99, M&S
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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