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Honours for top wine lists

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The great and the good of the pub, hotel and restaurant trade gathered in London this week to discover the winners in Imbibe’s first Wine List of the Year competition, run in association with Louis Roederer Champagne.

With judges having narrowed down hundreds of entries to just 25 finalists, the atmosphere was tense as the overall winners were announced by Imbibe’s editor, Chris Losh.

Certainly, as well as being a night of excitement for the winners and disappointment for those who missed out, it was also a night of surprises. Many of the awards went to venues outside London, and the overall winner of the prestigious Wine List of the Year was not a glittering Michelin-starred eatery, but a Chinese restaurant in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Pub List of the Year was won by The One Bull, from Bury St Edmonds – a lesson in clarity, choice and information.

Neighbourhood Restaurant List of the Year went to The Ambassador in Exmouth Market, London, for the evident love and care lavished on the selection of its 100-bin bistro list.

Roka picked up Ethnic Restaurant List of the Year. In what proved a hard-fought category of skill and imagination, its clarity and user-friendliness really stood out.

Champagne List of the Year was picked up by the Bell at Skenfrith, in Ross-on-Wye, both for a staggering selection of champagnes, and the fun, lively way in which they were presented.

Fine Wine List of the Year was always going to be an exceptionally tight battle, with some truly exceptional competition from the likes of Coq d’Argent and Corrigans in particular. But in the end, the judges thought that the wines from the Cherwell Boat House were not just incredible value for money, but also chosen with real care. As well as good, expensive wines, there were plenty of excellent wines at more affordable levels, too – and again the presentation was excellent.

If the winner of the overall Wine List of the Year was a surprise, there is no question that it was anything but totally deserved. Chee Hui’s submission from the HK House in Stroud was an object lesson in how to put together a tight, well-focused list of interesting and unusual wines that were brilliantly tailored to the needs of both the cuisine and the clientele. His tasting notes, too, were original, informative and intensely helpful.

A ten year labour of love, it’s been put together with a care and passion that really comes across. And perhaps more than any other entry, Mr Hui seems to have understood that a wine list isn’t just about the wines you select – it’s about how you ‘sell’ them to your customers. The presentation was innovative, personal and accessible.

‘There were a lot of really good lists here,’ said Chris Losh, competition organiser. ‘And it’s credit to our judges that they weren’t blinded by bling, but were able to spot people who were doing a great job at every level. Thanks to everyone who entered, and we look forward to even more, and even better submissions next year!’

News item from Imbibe.com, 16-09-2010

5 comments

Fabrice B. 26-09-2010

I think that the best wine list award given to HK House is a joke and I will not enter the next competition

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Clint 04-10-2010

The following comment is from Christopher Delalonde MS, one of the competition judges:

'We looked through these wine lists from different horizons. All of us have created and managed wines lists before, and therefore appreciate that a 1,300-bin list is complicated and demanding (and beautiful), but so is one with 20 bins, or less, where every cuvée needs to deserve its position! We balanced lots of parameters and brought arguments from our own experiences. How refreshing to see this small, clear and balanced wine list with, even more importantly, wines I would love to drink myself! Plus, a pricing logic that, despite being in Gloucesteshire, will defy most London's establishments by its attractiveness. Finally, every wine reference was matched with a witty and judicious comment that transpired passion and a real tasting work. It is refreshing to see a little Chinese restaurant taking the highest step through passion and composition, especially at a time when diners are running away from pompous and stiff restaurants.


'At the end of the day, we are all looking for the same quality, working with a pool of growers and expressions, and translating our passion for the product through our wine list. The real joke is more the dilution of that emphasis on quality and passion. How refreshing to find another angle on how to express it!'

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Fabrice B. 06-10-2010

A great wine list should list great wines and Chardonnay is the surely one of the greatest white grape variety. A great wine list should have at least one.
A wine list should be a list of the wines available to buy in the premises. Tasting notes might show a side of passion from the one writing it but everybody knows that we have different palates and therefore different opinions on what these wines taste like.

Yes, a great wine list could include funny tasting notes for each of the wine but it is not yet possible to do so for a list over 100 bins. There is no way that a wine list of 40 wines is the best on earth.

I like to show my passion on the floor and that's where the job of Sommelier takes sense. I can speak about each of my 650 wines to the guests in the lounge and I have a free website to speak about my wine experience.

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Robert G. 09-10-2010

It was a great pleasure and an honour to be asked to be one of the final judges. When it came down to it, we were genuinely spoilt for choice, as the overall quality of the lists were very good. However, we (I'm speaking here also for my fellow judges) sincerely believed that those restaurant lists, which won the awards thoroughly deserved to. For a full article, please click on my website robertgiorgione.com

At the end of the day, (sorry to sound like a French footballer), don't let other people's success diminish you or make you feel jealous. Let it inspire you instead…

Twitter @robertgiorgione

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Fabrice B. 13-10-2010

Nice comment Robert! I still don't believe that Michelin star sommeliers should reduce the choice of wines on their list but should instead strive to make it easier for their customers to find the perfect wine in the short time that they have to do so. I will surely take consideration of your choice for my next wine list but I will not go for the easy way which would be to reduce the choice. I like your website but the idea of a “Sommelier” website is not new, mine was already on 2 years ago, just after Andreas Larsson website which I think was one of the first. I enjoyed working with Alexis Gaultier at the Roussillon restaurant and I think that you are a lucky man, keep him happy!

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