Sparkling Wine & Champagne: Under £14
Entries were, as you might expect, dominated by prosecco, but the Golds here threw up some of the biggest surprises of this year’s competition
Since the sparkling wine categories are split up by price, rather than style, you can end up with a broad spread of entries in each section. And never more so than at the cheap end. Entries in the sub-£14 arena came from absolutely everywhere.
From the UK to Russia, Cava to Carneros, it was a wider spread than in the past, possibly because overall entries in this price-competitive arena were up 50% – which, in itself, tells you something about the direction in which the merchants think the on-trade sparkling market is going. Customers, it seems, like bubbles – and outside Champagne they’re not over-fussy about where they come from, but they are fussy about how much it costs!
No big surprise that there was an increase in prosecco entries. The wine that launched a thousand hen parties only really started to appear in SWA a couple of years ago, but its presence has grown, and it was a significant factor this year with a string of medals at all levels. Europe, in fact, dominated this part of the sparkling wine category, with the New World (and, indeed, other parts of France) surprisingly under-represented.
In the past, the tasters have been scathing about what they’ve found here, but there seems to have been a marked improvement in winemaking over the past few years, with the hit-rate for medals better than at the £20+ level! Several veterans of SWA tastings commented that they felt that the quality here was up on previous competitions.
‘I was quite impressed,’ said Claire Love of Loves Restaurant. Everyone is looking at what they’re spending at the moment and looking for value for money when they buy sparkling wine.’
The most common complaint was sugar levels. Wines that failed to medal were either deemed too bland or rather over-sweet; sugar slapped on like make-up to cover pallid fruit complexion.
‘Some of the cheaper wines felt quite artificial, cultivated; the fizz is quite weak,’ mused Laurent Chaniac from Cinnamon Club.
Zuma’s Kelvin McCabe, though, didn’t mind that. ‘The wines that tended to get through had lower mousse, and less aggressive, more natural acidity,’ he said.
So, all the Golds this year went to prosecco, then, right? Well, not quite – though a Gold, two Silvers and six Bronzes was a powerful performance, with the superlative Bisol Crede Prosecco Superiore described as a ‘brilliant example of prosecco’ by the tasters.
But in fact it’s hard to think of any other category that threw up so many surprises this year, with first-time Golds for that well-known producer of quality sparkling wine, Brazil (!), and one for the UK.
‘The Vale dos Vinhedos Miolo Brut showed a point of difference – we included this because it had autolytic character and this extra complexity would carry the wine from aperitif offering a little more through lighter dishes,’ said Cubitt House’s Matthew Cocks.
The English sparkler from Furleigh Estate meanwhile, had depth, balance and freshness at the kind of price that the Champenois vacated two years ago. Hurrah for St George and England!
‘It was a good line-up, with some highlights. In previous years a lot of these wines have been terrible. The quality at this level seems to have improved.’ Joris Beijn, Andaz