With the 2014 series of Imbibe’s wine and food matching competition due to kick off at any minute, Chris Losh casts his eye over the star turns from last year
Best Overall Score: González Byass
On paper, a selection of wines entirely from Iberia, Australia or New Zealand ought to have found this a struggle. But the quality – and, interestingly, the variety – were such that González Byass ended up with the best overall score from our judges last year: 32/40. There were literally no poor wines, plenty of great ones and a stimulating mix of value for money and A-list quality, including the extraordinary Finca Moncloa Tintilla de Rota Vino Tinto Dulce Tradicional 2009.
Best value overall: John E Fells
Fells came second in this year’s competition, with a score from the sommeliers of 31.5/40 – just half a point behind González Byass. But it achieved this with the lowest average per-bottle price (by quite some way) of any of this year’s entrants. Indeed, over half of its submitted wines were under £10, including the elegant, approachable Seifried Estate Grüner Veltliner 2012 from Nelson in New Zealand.
Best Scoring Wine on its Own: Apostoles Palo Cortado Muy Viejo, Jerez, Spain; £13.64, González Byass
Although it bombed when paired with its white chocolate dessert, the Apostoles Palo Cortado had the honour of being the highest scoring wine (independent of food) in the 2013 competition. Nutty, succulent and intense, but with real balance and elegance, it is a wine of real pedigree at a steal of a price.
Most Daring Use of Champagne: Coe Vintners
Much talk is made of matching champagne and food, but only one of our merchants this year had the guts to put its money where its mousse was. The two submitted Henri Giraud champagnes (a Blanc de Blancs and a Rosé) may have met with different levels of success (the former was a hit with a lobster starter, the latter less-so with a crème brulée dessert), but both were highly rated by the tasters on their own. All of which means that Coe Vintners deserves real credit for preparing to be adventurous with one of the obvious stars of their portfolio, rather than simply sticking with safe options.
Best Starter Match: Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand; £11.07, Negociants UK
This delightful, elegant wine is proof that the Kiwis can do great Chardonnay when they put their mind to it. It was a terrific match (by quite a long way!) with a difficult starter that included beetroot, pickled carrots, goats’ cheese and horseradish yoghurt.
Best Main Course Match: Beronia Graciano 2010, Rioja, Spain; £10.12, González Byass
OK, it was up against a pretty straightforward main course – beef on the bone, celeriac purée and roasted mushrooms. But this was one of only two wines in the entire competition to score 40 or more points both on its own and with the food. With ripe fruit, silky tannins and attractive mid-palate lift, it’s highly impressive at this price point.
Best Dessert Match: Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier 2012, Wrattonbully, Australia; £9.84/37.5cl, Negociants UK
The only wine in this year’s competition to score over 40 points, this big succulent botrytis monster did so against a truly challenging cheese board. ‘Like stone fruit jam,’ according to one taster, it worked well with a wide variety of cheeses – a bit like having dried apricots on the side to counter the pungency of the food.
| THE MERCHANTS
Coe Vintners – 020 8551 4966
González Byass UK – 01707 274790
Inverarity Morton – 0141 649 9881
John E Fells – 01442 870900
Negociants UK – 01582 462859