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SWA 2011: SPARKLING WINE & CHAMPAGNE - UNDER £14

Sparkling Wine & Champagne: under £14
There was decent quality and some fine medal-winners but overall, value for money was harder to find this year

As you would expect, this was a mixed bag of styles and qualities, from simple cava right up to more ambitious méthode traditionelle wines at the upper end of the category. All of which allowed our tasters to put together an affordable end of the list that ran the gamut of styles, from taut, lean and crisp to richer and more autolytic.

In the past, there have been some exceptional wines at this price band, but there was less of that this time around, with higher price tags no guarantee of higher quality.

‘Apart from the sweeter ones, I thought the value for money was quite poor,’ said ETM Group’s Paulo Brammer. ‘You never knew what you were getting.’

Massala’s Maria Rodriguez thought she knew why: ‘There’s only so much you can do in the winery to lower costs before you start to take the virtue out of the wine itself.’

In general (and this seems to be a repeated trend year after year), the most successful wines were those made in the cheaper, fresher style. ‘When they kept it simple at this price level, they delivered pretty well. And a lot of guests like the clean, fresh, aperitif style and don’t want to pay too much for it,’ said Ashdown Park Hotel’s Nick Chiu.

Chiu’s description is a blueprint for the wine that launched a thousand lunches – prosecco – and the tasters found a couple of good examples, either of which could have made it onto the Gold List, with the Follador narrowly getting the nod over the Montresor. With the ‘light, fresh aperitif’ box ticked, our panel backed this up with the excellent ‘Champagne substitute’ Domaine Carneros at the upper end of the price scale and a bouncy, sparkling Moscato from Giovanni Viberti.

‘[The Domaine Carneros] was good quality with concentrated fruit, fresh and drinking well. It’s not cheap, but it is serious and stands up as a good wine in its own right,’ said WineChap’s Tom Harrow. Adored by all who tried it, it was rewarded with a Critic’s Choice.

Yet there were some fine Golds, and the slew of Silvers points to some good quality submissions. This year, more than in any previous SWAs, comments from tasters were
not concerning amazing wines for the price, but an overall lack of value for money.

Prosecco prices, particularly, seem to be on the march northwards. ‘If they’re not careful, another category will come in below them,’ warned Maria Rodriguez. And though there were still a decent number of medal-winning wines (three Golds, five Silvers and four Bronzes), there were noticeably fewer doing it for eye-popping prices.

“Maybe we have to accept that the days of good cheap wine are over. It was rare to find anything under £8. ” Garry Clark, The Chester Grosvenor


GOLD LIST

Follador Prosecco Treviso Spago 2010, Veneto, Italy
SWA 2011 Gold List £7.50 @ Follador UK
With its delicate mousse and creamy, white peach nose with hints of elderflower and acacia, this is great value. ‘The palate is rounded and fruity with lovely purity,’ said Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak. ‘Very approachable.’ ‘Lovely aperitif,’ added Robert Giorgione, ex-Orrery Restaurant. 

Giovanni Viberti Moscato d’Asti 2010, Piedmont, Italy
SWA 2011 Gold List £10.79 @ Bottle Green
Delicate, fresh, floral and grapey with good length and perfect balance. Paolo Brammer found it ‘very aromatic, with green apple and hints of white flowers’, while James Hocking, The Vineyard, thought it was a ‘really refreshing glass of wine’. ‘Vibrant and delicate,’ said Tom Harrow, WineChap. 

Domaine Carneros Sparkling Brut 2006, Carneros, California, USA
£12.49 @ Hatch Mansfield
  Yeasty, autolytic character on the nose, with crisp red apple and pear notes following through on the palate. Medium in length. ‘Clean and vibrant with quite a rich texture on the mid-palate,’ said Tom Harrow. ‘Ticks all my boxes,’ said Robert Giorgione succinctly.

SILVER

Montresor Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante NV, Veneto, Italy
£7.21 @ Boutinot
An elegant sparkler that only just missed out on reaching the Gold List, this has fresh apple fruit flavours, balanced crisp acidity and a light finish. ‘The palate is fruity and appealing,’ said Jamie Goode. ‘Very friendly and attractive.’

Villa Sandi Prosecco Il Fresco NV, Treviso, Piedmont, Italy
£8.44 @ Villa Sandi
A lovely delicate fizz with carefully balanced aromatics and apple notes, this is fresh, bright and rather good value.

Rives-Blanques Blanquette de Limoux 2008, Limoux, Languedoc, France
£11.79 @ Enotria
Delicate and gentle notes of almonds and baked apples on top of bright lemons, this has a lively, complex, savoury palate with good acidity. ‘Long and distinctive,’ said Jamie Goode.

Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut NV, Lombardy, Italy
£12.11 @ Boutinot
Ripe pear and white flower aromas with lemon citrus flavours, good length and a touch
of richness. Maria Rodriguez noted ‘huge minerality’. Robert Giorgione thought it was
‘quite delicious but expensive’.

Roederer Estate Quartet NV, Anderson Valley, California, USA
£13.75 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
Earthy, yeasty notes, with apples and spices on the palate, good red fruit character, medium acidity, long length and a clean finish. ‘Apple tarte tatin in a glass,’ said Robert Giorgione. ‘Delicious and very classy.’

BRONZE

Bouvet Ladubay Saumur Brut Blanc, Saumur, Loire, France
£7.30 @ Cavendish Wines
A straightforward but effective sparkler, this is pale lemon in colour with a nice mousse, fresh citrus fruit and a crisp grapefruit edge to its zippy sherbet finish.

follador valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry Millesimato 2010, Veneto, Italy
£10 @ Follador UK
Plenty of ripe pears on this light-bodied, well-balanced sparkler. Tom Forrest, Team Leader, found ‘lemon acidity and a dry, if slightly short, finish’. ‘Attractive and drinkable. Nicely expressive,’ said Jamie Goode.

Cesarini Sforza Tridentum 2006, Trento, Italy
£10.99 @ United Wineries
With minerality, honey and some floral notes, this has a light palate of dried apple, and a crisp lemony note to finish.

Deutz Marlborough Brut Cuvee NV, Marlborough, New Zealand
£13.33 @ Pernod Ricard UK
Great mousse, this shows good, toasty, autolytic character and a well-integrated, austere palate.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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