Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: New World
The New World’s emerging white wine categories have been patchy in previous SWAs. But this year, there were some genuinely impressive – and cheap – wines
As you might expect from a category that takes in a fair few very different grape varieties (and unusual blends), this part of the Sommelier Wine Awards has always been quite hard to call. Two years ago it was saved by the Chenin Blancs (since separated off into their own section), while last year it attracted generally positive comments, but got nothing on the Gold List.
So this year’s performance – two Gold Listed wines and five on the Shortlist – can be seen as something of a triumph.
Having said that, it was a bit of a curate’s egg of a performance. Torrontés, for instance, did very well, providing a flight of wines that were aromatic, interesting and well priced. In fact, the whole lot were between £5.30 and £6.50. Those that made it through to the Shortlist and beyond were usually a bit more restrained, with the judges throwing out anything that they perceived as over-ripe and blowsy. ‘Tart’s handbag wines’, as one taster put it.
Viognier was a disappointment. There were plenty of them – from Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – but they just weren’t very good. Viognier is, of course, quite a tricky grape to get ripe, needing plenty of heat, but also a long growing season, and it doesn’t look like most New World producers (Casa Silva the honourable exception) have really got the hang of it yet.
‘New World Viogniers a year or two ago were so much better,’ said a clearly unhappy Christine Parkinson of Hakkasan. ‘These are just not good enough.’
The rest of the Other Whites was, as usual, made up mostly from slightly mad blends, one of which, the Via Sauvignon/Carmenère, made it onto the Gold List, and the majority of which attracted praise from the tasters because they were a) different, and b) overdelivered for the money.
‘We’ve got some real funkiness here,’ said Mike ‘James Brown’ Harrison. ‘Some similar to classic unoaked Chardonnay, some really good value for money – but there’s very high quality for the price – they’re young, aromatic wines.’
Overall this section did well, with all of the awarded wines coming in under a tenner.
Torrontés is a simple wine but very pleasant and I think it can work very well by the glass. But a richer style could go with veal, prawns or green curry. Gal Zohar, L’Anima
Oveja Negra Sauvignon Blanc/Carmenere 2008, Via Wine Group, Vale Campanha, Chile
£5.05 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Maybe the most unusual varietal blend in the competition, but it certainly won over the judges. Clean, fresh, gooseberry-type nose that had some wondering whether it was English. ‘Good grassy, herbaceous flavours and a neat aftertaste,’ said Agustin Trapero.
Vinedos De La Posada Fairtrade/Organic Torrontes 2008, La Riojana, La Rioja, Argentina
£5.42 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Clean, crisp and elegant, with plenty of trademark Torrontés perfume laid over a grip of acidity. Fantastic palate-cleansing apéritif wine, with plenty of lift and freshness. ‘Fresh, light and simple, but good with seafood,’ said Gal Zohar.
Beelgara The Vines Semillon Chardonnay 2008, New South Wales, Australia
£5.38 @ Barwell & Jones Ltd
Melon, peaches and pastry on the nose, with a creamy, pineapply palate. ‘Really good value,’ said Murk Schipper.
Argento Reserva Torrontes 2008, Mendoza, Argentina
£5.39 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Quite delicate, with refined elderflower and honeyed rose petal aromas over a more muscular, spicy grapefruit acidity.
Alamos Torrontes 2007, Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina
£6.00 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Honeyed, oily and concentrated, with spicy, multi-layered complexity. ‘A refined wine,’ said an approving Gal Zohar. Certainly got a good pedigree for the price, too.
Casa Silva Viognier Reserva 2008, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£7.00 @ Jackson Nugent Vintners Ltd
An attractive crispness and purity set this Viognier apart from the competition. Yes, there’s some stone-fruit richness, but it’s combined with an almost grassy florality. Carries its alcohol well.
A To Z Pinot Blanc 2006, A To Z, Dundee, Oregon, USA
£8.85 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd
Pretty international nose. Open and aromatic, but still beautifully balanced. ‘This could be great with seafood,’ said Csama Adamy.