SOME years ago, a book I had written received an award as “World Wine Book of the Year” at a ceremony in Beijing. This week, I received a list of winners in one of the main wine competitions. In the past, there have been gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded; this year, they also include platinum awards. Where do we go from here? There is a certain amount of déja vu about this: did not the same happen at one time with credit cards?
Please don’t think that I am trying to belittle this competition. The judges were assembled at great expense from all over the world. The wines were tasted against their peers from the same grape variety, vintage, and price, and, in the last category, there were five bands, ranging
from under £7.99 retail to more than £60.
The problem for the consumer is that there are now too many competitions making awards, and these competitions range from regional shows, which might just include the wines of one appellation, to global events such as this one, with entries from Thailand to Kazakhstan. Sadly, gold in one competition may be false gold in another.
The good news from this particular competition is that the High Street is well represented in the awards, even at the highest of levels: Platinum Best in Show, and Platinum Best in Category. I am certain that nobody will be surprised that Chile has done particularly well. Among the outstanding wines are: La Moneda Reserve Malbec, Central Valley 2015 (ASDA, £3.37); Miguel Torres, Días de Verano Reserve Dry Muscat 2015, from the southerly Itata Valley (Majestic, £7.99); Booth’s Errázuriz Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa 2015 (Wines Direct, £10.95). It is interesting that the last two wines come from two of Chile’s cooler regions. Rather more expensive is one of my favourites, Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley 2014 (Waitrose £19.99).
For those who prefer to buy their wine by mail order, northern Spain is represented by Pazo Señorans, Selección de Añada Albariño, Rías Baixas 2008 (The Wine Society, £29), and Descendientes de J. Palacios, Villa de Corullón Bierzo 2013 (Laithwaites, £30).
At more down-to-earth prices are Morrison’s M Sinature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (offer price of £5.50), the unctuous De Bortoli Tesco’s Finest Dessert Semillon 2011, from Riverina in Australia (£6 a half-bottle), and the intriguing Campos de Solana Tannat 2015 from the highest commercial wine-region in the world, windswept Tarija, in Bolivia (Marks & Spencer, £11).
Many of us, however, are content with bargains at a bronze level. Among these, I can recommend Aldi’s the Exquisite Collection Marsanne 2015 from Jean-Claude Mas (£5.99), Morrison’s M Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from Somontano in northern Spain (£7), and Waitrose’s Campo de Borja 2015, just £4.99.
An alternative source for good wine recommendations is 100 Awesome Wines, by the Association of Wine Educators. This is available free from firstname.lastname@example.org.