The most prestigious accolades of the 2016 Sommelier Wine Awards – the coveted Wine of the Year designations – were decided at Imbibe Live. Chris Losh unveils the winners
Picking up a Gold Medal in the Sommelier Wine Awards is hard enough. But every year we select the top wines from our Gold List and put them in front of a panel of tasters for them to decide which will take home the ultimate accolade, Wine of the Year.
We only gave out six of these awards this year, which, from a total entry of around 2,500 wines, makes them the best of the best in their field – whether that's great value house wine, superior gastropub star or a high pedigree fine wine for white tablecloth restaurants.
Make no mistake, these wines should be on everyone's radar.
Overall Wine of the Year
Morgenster Estate 2003, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£25.36, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 4411
The Overall Wine of the Year award comes from retasting all our Critics' Choice wines – entries that had already stood out. And in a line-up of excellence, the Morgenster Estate stood out once again. A roughly equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot, the extra age had mellowed this powerhouse red into something extraordinary.
Tasters picked up cassis, chocolate, herbs and cigar box, and praised it for its density and balance. Quite superb – and a worthy star wine of this year's competition.
House Wine of the Year – white
Cono Sur Los Gansos Gewürztraminer 2015, Maule/Casablanca Valleys, Chile
£4.47, CyT UK, 01865 873713
Just two years ago, this wine won a Gold and a Critics' Choice award; this year, even before picking up its House Wine of the Year award, it had acquired a Pub & Bar Trophy. Consistent, as well as great value, our tasters loved its floral, grapey characters, with the exotic notes backed up by a refreshing acidity.
House Wine of the Year – red
Vistamar Sepia Reserva Malbec 2014, Maule Valley, Chile
£4.78, Kingsland, 01613 334300
Chile's Maule Valley is undergoing something of a renaissance, as is Malbec in the country – and both factors came together in this excellent offering. Smoky, spicy and brambly, with an attractive natural acidity, it is less sweet-fruited than most Argentinian versions, which makes it a sympathetic food partner at a terrific price.
Fine Wine of the Year – white
Isole e Olena Privata Collezione Chardonnay 2014, Tuscany, Italy
£23.95, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350
The white Fine Wine award often goes to a Chardonnay – but usually we're looking at Burgundy. This deserved award for Tuscan blue-chip producer Isole e Olena showed just what Chiantishire can do with the grape. Taster after taster was wowed by the combination of fruit, smoke, texture and long, concentrated finish. A must-list if you have the clientele.
Fine Wine of the Year – red
Sanford Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Rita Hills, California, US
£30.70, Matthew Clark, 0844 822 3910
The Terlato Wine Group has some good kit in its portfolio, and this Californian wine proved the point emphatically. It also showed that our tasters are happy to reward expensive New World examples of Pinot if they think the quality is there. This had complex, silky fruit, as you'd expect, but in addition there was a winning mid-palate crunchiness, and extra complexity due to the time in bottle.
Gastropub Wine of the Year
Eschenhof Holzer Zero-G Zweigelt 2013, Wagram, Austria
£7.75, Berkmann Wine Cellars, 020 7609 4711
If you're looking for ways to add interest to your list, without scaring the punters, then listing this terrific Zweigelt would be a great way to do just that. It's smooth and spicy, which should appeal to those who like flavour, but there's also a breezy freshness through the palate that makes it hugely useful for food-matching. With a By the Glass Trophy as well as a Gold Medal and a Wine of the Year award, it was one of the stars at this year's competition.