Another strong performance from what is probably SWA’s best category year in year out, with whites and northern Rhônes leading the way
Its getting boring (in a good way) to say it year after year. But the Rhône put in another terrific performance at this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, with half a dozen Gold-Listed wines (not all of them expensive), and a hatful of well-priced Silvers and Bronzes as well.
Following the success of the whites last year, this year we got not just two Golds – amazingly, from the same producer – at £10 and £30, but seven other medals as well.
There were some very good [white] wines showing great personality, freshness, complexity and length,’ said wine columnist and publisher Jamie Goode. ‘It was especially true at the higher end, but there were good wines across the price levels.
At a sniff over £10, the Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone was ‘exactly what white Rhône should be about’, according to Gergely Barsi Szabó of Borough Wines, ‘with floral characters and restrained enough to go with food’. The Saint Cosme Condrieu was described by Emilie Courtois of Terroirs as ‘super-complex for people who really enjoy age, richness and complexity’.
In the reds, the star area was very definitely the Northern Rhône. While the two Golds were both around £20+, there was some great value to be had poking around in the Silver medals, too. ‘The wines were correctly priced all the way along – right the way up to the Domaine du Monteillet Les Grands Places 2006 on the end,’ said consultant Caspar Auchterlonie. ‘Even at that price it was value, and it’s drinking beautifully now.’
‘The two northern Golds show two unique styles,’ added Vivat Bacchus’s Laura Ward. ‘They’re very exciting in different ways. They both give you something to talk about, rather than being worried about price and whether it’s worth it.’
The Côtes du Rhône/Villages flights were good, too, with winemakers clearly making the most of the 2009 and 2010 vintages, and plenty of well-priced wines getting through to the medal stages.
‘There are things you taste where you appreciate the quality; then there are things you taste that you want to take the bottle home with you. These were all in that category,’ said The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking. ‘I picked out five, but I really could have picked out any of them. And they’re not expensive either.’
The Boutinot Les Coteaux was described, approvingly, by journalist Sarah Jane Evans MW as ‘textbook wine. You could eat anything with this’, while the more ambitious, but still well-priced Bouquet des Garrigues (‘there’s so much going on, but it wasn’t overbearing’, said Nicola Thomson, Practical Matters) got a Food Match award as well as Gold.
If there was one area of the Rhône that disappointed a bit this year, it was the South. You’d think it would be a place to find good-value, hearty wines with a bit of guts. On the showing this year, you’d be wrong. Nothing was entered under £10 at all (!), and the tasters were generally left underwhelmed.
‘Some were high in alcohol with no fruit, others were disjointed. This can be a problem in the southern Rhône,’ explained Texture’s Xavier Rousset MS. ‘Grenache can be a tricky variety – too flat or too fat.’
‘The whites showed great consistency, with a lot of typicity and plenty to work with across the price range. They were very food friendly.’ Claire Love, Loves Restaurant
‘The Côtes du Rhônes were genuinely great for the price, really great entry-level wines with lots of character. All were very distinctive and definitely from the Rhône valley.’ Marco Carboni, Bread Street Kitchen