| Buried! 50 tasters feared dead of boredom in New World Savalanche
Thirty sommeliers were feared dead of boredom last night, after being engulfed by a tidal wave of largely indifferent New World Sauvignon Blanc. The deadly tsunami – 25% bigger than last year’s record-breaking entry – crashed down on Delfina Gallery during the judging of this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, burying the tasters under a cloying wall of gooseberry and passion fruit.
Aid workers were quickly on the scene, but feared it was unlikely that there would be any survivors. ‘People just can’t stand that combination of sweet fruit and rasping acidity for long,’ said one. ‘If we don’t get to them within five minutes, they’re dead in the water. Or rather, in the wine.’
Scientists blamed the disaster on a shockwave of ‘consumer demand and supermarket pricing’ that caused wineries to knock out vast quantities of characterless gloop. ‘Once we discovered that Sauvignons were pouring in from all over the planet, all at the same time, we knew the tasters were doomed,’ said Professor Frank N Furter.
AT A GLANCE: Consumer demand and increased popularity of the category leads to too much characterless Sauvignon Blanc.
Italians in the dock over ‘undrinkable’ Pinot Grigio scandal
| ‘Dead’ Saffers now show signs of life
There were emotional scenes in the Cape last night when it was discovered that the South African wine industry was not, in fact, dead, but had simply been asleep. In previous years of SWA, the country’s wines have underperformed. The persistent vegetative state had led sommeliers to wonder aloud whether it might be kinder to turn off the life support system altogether.
But, in circumstances that were little short of a miracle, this year saw welcome signs of life from Syrah to Sauvignon Blanc, and – perhaps most heartening of all – a clean sweep in Chenin Blanc.
AT A GLANCE: South Africa is back on form with a winning performance in SWA.
| Bubble trouble as Patricia shakes Champenois
An Australian sparkler has stunned the Champenois by winning the only gold medal in the key £14-20 category at this year’s SWA. The Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Noir/Chardonnay impressed tasters with its elegance, beating off a chasing group of champagnes. Overall, while champagnes still dominated the medals across the Sparkling category in SWA, this year represented a wake-up call for the region.
AT A GLANCE: Australia beats Champagne to gold medal in £14-20.
| Phew! What a Corker as SWA hits record high
Competition organisers were collectively mopping their brows after processing this year’s entries to the Sommelier Wine Awards. A record number of entries – over 1,500 in total – plus a particularly warm spring saw sommeliers turning out in record numbers to London’s Delfina Gallery to taste at the competition.
The Met Office, meanwhile, issued a special warning for Shiraz and the Rhône, mentioning that while these categories may have been cooler two or three years ago, entries had risen significantly of late, and tasters might need to take extra precautions before trying to taste them all.
‘Sommeliers must drink plenty of fluids and make sure they have the right strength of water biscuits if they are to avoid palate burn-out,’ warned competition director, Chris Losh. ‘This doesn’t appear to be a one-off but part of a long-term trend. A combination of global warming and the fact that the on-trade seems to like the competition means SWA is growing at more than 30% a year.’
A government spokesman said: ‘Obviously we are monitoring the situation. If numbers continue to grow at this rate it could have a serious impact on the way we all live. Restaurants could be full of great wine, and there could be a shortage. We ask everyone to be considerate in their use to avoid a hosepipe ban in the future…’
AT A GLANCE: With entries up to over 1,500, SWA is bigger than ever before and growing by more than 30% a year.
| Casablanca, please don’t play it again…
Windows were shattered, and some sommeliers went deaf, as the discordant wailings of a group of Casablanca wines caused havoc during the SWA-Factor heats. While judges may not have been expecting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they were at least hoping for a little musicality. ‘We’ve had some rubbish on the SWA-Factor in our time,’ said chief judge, Simon Trowel, ‘but that really takes the biscuit. They thought they were being all cool-climate and Burgundian, but in fact they were syrupy and over-alcoholic. It was like watching your granny pole dance.’
AT A GLANCE: Chilean wine region Casablanca disappoints in SWA 2011.
| The 80s are back: official
Dust off your Filofax and seek out those shoulder pads, because the 1980s are here again, say our trend-spotters! As well as a vicious recession, a royal wedding and a Tory(ish) government, we can now add the return of Beaujolais into the mix.
Forever associated with City-workers in red braces and the infamous ‘Nouveau runs’, Beaujolais is back – and this time it’s drinkable. The stand out category of this year’s SWA, Beaujolais delivered four great medal-winning wines – all priced below a tenner. But more to the point, tasters liked almost every Beaujolais wine they tried, finding it incredibly hard to knock any of them out of the running.
‘Our wines have never had much credibility in the past, but actually they’re really good, easy and fun – and secretly a lot of people really like them,’ said a spokesperson for the Beaujolais wine growers. ‘A bit like Nik Kershaw.’
AT A GLANCE: Beaujolais is the all-round top-performing region in SWA 2011.
| Worried that you’re spending too much on wine?
Feel like you’re being taken for a ride by suppliers?
Struggling to perform in the House wine department?
Don’t worry: you’re not alone!
Thousands of hotels, restaurants and gastropubs all over the country have suffered from the same complaint. They found relief, and you can too, with new House Wine Gold award-winners from SWA! Simply scan this large category for a vast selection of great wines at amazing prices. They’ll soon have your list back in tip-top form.
| Tuscany voted sexiest region in Italy
Tuscany has come out top at this year’s Miss Italy Wine competition. Held at the villa of a well-known Italian politician, all of the country’s wine regions paraded before a judging team made up of top sommeliers, wealthy businessmen and politicians under the influence of egomania.
Following the usual ‘tannin’, ‘fruit’ and ‘swimsuit’ rounds, each of the contestants had to explain to the panel why they felt they deserved a gold medal in the Sommelier Wine Awards. ‘That tripped up a lot of the contestants,’ said chairman of judges, Enzo Libido. ‘A lot of them thought they deserved to win just because they were expensive.’
In the end, it came down to a two-way battle between the languid elegance of the north-east and the more pneumatic charms of Tuscany, with the latter just shading it. ‘I loved that gorgeous dark fruit, those curvy tannins, the long, smouldering finish. Mamma mia!’ said one judge.
AT A GLANCE: Sommeliers agreee that Tuscany is on top form this year.
| Kiwis callously dump Cab for younger model
Is it on? Is it off? The much talked-about tempestuous relationship between New Zealand and red Bordeaux varietals could finally be over, with rumours that the glamorous pair have split following a disastrous row at this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards.
Initially billed as a marriage made in heaven, (who could forget the glitzy 12-page wedding in the pages of Decanter?) things seem to have turned sour for New Zealand and Cabernet. The two were barely on speaking terms at this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, with not a single medal between them and plenty of signs of thin, stalky fruit.
The country was also papped coming out of a nightclub with a bevy of young medal-winning Syrahs on its arm, which some observers have seen as evidence of a mid-life crisis. ‘NZ has put a lot of work into Cabernet blends, but it’s at that time of life when it just wants to cut loose and have some fun,’ said a close friend of the country.
AT A GLANCE: Cabernet blends from New Zealand didn’t win any medals at SWA.
| Stave to love: Spanish battle ‘oakdiction’
The Spanish wine industry has checked into rehab to cure what a spokesman called a ‘chronic dependence on oak’. Historically, Spain’s bodegas have been known to ‘like a bit of tree’, with junior winemakers often using barrels before they can even control a fermentation. But the casual use of chips and a growing dependence on stronger ‘French’ oak have led to increasingly erratic behaviour.
Hotel meals have been trashed, vicious tannic punches have left tasters with bleeding gums, and, most famously of all, the country underperformed badly at this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, with a number of tasters complaining that they found its ‘oakdiction’ offensive.
‘Spain recognises that it has a problem, and is taking steps to remedy it,’ said a spokesman for the country. ‘It would like to thank all its fans for its support and assure them that it will be back as soon
as it gets the staves out of its nose.’
AT A GLANCE: Over-oaked Spanish wines lose out on medals at SWA.
| Looking for love?
Then look no further!
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Malbec shock as Chileans claim gold medal
Brilliant Boutinot sees off competitors
Disclaimer: Some, or potentially all, quotations may have been entirely fabricated. Some events may also have been made up for your amusement. All of the wines are real though. We promise. For full category analysis and a list of SWA winners see imbibe.com.