France had the edge over Italy in this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, the result of consistently impressive performance across the majority of its regions. The results were announced today.
While Italy scored more awards overall, it was the quality of France's medal haul and the number of trophies it pocketed that saw it take the country crown.
The Loire in particular shone, with Gold across all styles and shades, including a pair each for Levin Wines, Joseph Mellot and Château de Fosse-Sèche, and a well-priced Muscadet from Cardinal Richard which picked up both a Food Match and a By The Glass trophy too. Both Beaujolais and Chablis benefited from the 2014 vintage, with double Golds for Signé Vignerons and Laroche. The south of France, meanwhile, scored on both red and white fronts, often at more than fair prices.
In Italy, it was the northern regions and Tuscany that shone brightest, with flashes of brilliance from the south, particularly from the whites. Mezzacorona scored a hat-trick and a Food Match trophy with its well-priced, stylish Trentino reds.
England's performance continued its upward trend. Sparkling wines led the way, with two Golds going to Gusbourne Estate, High Clandon following up its 2015 Gold with one for its Magna Carta Cuvée, and Bluebell Vineyard’s Hindleap Blanc de Blanc 2011 scoring the Fish & Chips Food Match trophy.
The debut sparkling rosé of Henry & Kaye Laithwaite’s Harrow & Hope winery, based in the Thames Valley, picked up one of only two sparkling rosé golds to be awarded outside the Champagne region, the other going to Hattingley Valley. 'We're ecstatic to have won gold in our first wine competition,' said Henry. 'This will really help us launch into the on-trade and let people know we're here.'
Elsewhere in the competition, a Cornish wine fashioned in the style of a Mosel picked up not only Gold, but a Critics’ Choice trophy.
Turkey built on its growing reputation, winning 68 awards, including seven Golds and a clutch of Trophies, one of which, the fortified Diren Mahlep, competition director Chris Losh deemed 'arguably the most eye-catching entry' in the diverse Other Fortified Wine category. 'This isn't just a handful of good producers winning Golds every year,’ said Losh. 'Every year sees different names and different wines rising to the top, and while the number of red Golds is slightly down on 2015, the overall number of awarded reds is twice as many as last year. This is a colossally successful category,' said Losh.
Elsewhere, Chile increased its number of Golds and Silvers by a third, South Africa’s Bordeaux blends rated highly, with judges finding a genuine 'South Africa style', and Spain’s Duero Valley Gold Listers balanced light, summery whites with rich, intense reds.
Grape-wise, Malbec asserted itself as the 'must-have' grape. 'Taster after taster described it as a must-list, as their biggest seller, as the most reliably good red on their list,' said Losh, adding 'Chile has some – and is belatedly waking up to the variety's potential. But how long, I wonder, before we start to see Malbecs from Australia or South Africa?'
A number of firsts for the competition, now in its 10th year, included the first Gold Medals for a Txakoli wine and one from Romania.
Consultant and SWA team leader Jade Koch will be hosting a masterclass with SWA Gold winners at the English Wine Producers Annual Trade & Press Tasting, 9 May, One Great George Street.