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Home Winners > Winners 2012 > Critics Choice Awards 2012

Winner Details

Critics' Choice Awards 2012

If you want to know where the Trophies are in the Sommelier Wine Awards, well, there aren’t any! We don’t want our tasters to feel under pressure to give out awards in certain categories just to tick a box. Instead, we ask our teams in the final round of tasting to select a couple of their star wines – the Gold Medal-winning bottles that had our tasters going sommelier loco.

These are then re-tasted by a further panel of experts and narrowed down from 30 or so contenders to the dozen wines that you see here.

In terms of both price and style, they’re hugely varied, from a super-dry manzanilla to a Slovenian sweetie; from a great value South African Chenin to an eye-wateringly expensive Spanish red. But what they all have in common is that these were wines that our tasters really believed in and got excited about.

Try them. We’re sure that you will, too.

‘We ask our teams to select a couple of their star wines – the ones that had our tasters going sommelier loco – and these are narrowed down to the dozen you see here.’ Chris Losh, competition director

Ridgeview Knightsbridge Blanc de Noirs 2009, Sussex, England

£19.74 @ Enotria

The English have arrived! And in style, led by those specialists in sparkling finesse, Ridgeview. In true blanc de noirs form, there’s the palest tinge of pink here plus red berry hints alongside gentle autolytic notes on the nose, leading to a rich, textured palate. Founder Mike Roberts deliberately selected French Pinot Noir and Meunier clones at the outset, and this, coupled with the winery’s unique location nestling in the lee of the South Downs, provides great material for his talented team to work with. Cheers!

Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2006, Coonawarra, South Australia

£16.67 @ Alliance Wine

What fun – sparkling Shiraz of such quality it’s likely to trigger a revival in fizzy reds all on its own, judging by our panel’s reaction. But then Majella has learnt how to fashion gems from the terra rossa of Coonawarra over generations and been hailed by the likes of James Halliday as the region’s best winery due to the skills of winemaker Bruce Gregory. It’s the savoury complexity allied with the spicy, ripe fruit, plus an accomplished lick of crispness that makes this such a delightful wine, whether solo or with food. Go on, surprise yourself.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana NV, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain

£8.15 @ Mentzendorff & Co

Illustrating precisely why sherry provides the best flavour profile for the money, the Palomino grapes for this sophisticated salty sea dog of a manzanilla come from Hidalgo’s Pastrana vineyard in the best district in Jerez. Only the free-run juice is fermented using natural yeasts before the solera system ageing takes over, contributing limitless layers of nuts, fresh dough and tang. Its structure and texture means this gem can solve even the trickiest food match issues, as we found

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2010, Stellenbosch, South Africa

£6.94 @ Matthew Clark

Kleine Zalze has done the treble, with a clean sweep of Food Match, By the Glass and Critics’ Choice gongs for this remarkably poised Chenin Blanc. Balancing delightful, tangy tropical fruit flavours with honeycomb, candied fruit and jasmine notes is no mean feat, but then the fruit does come from some of the estate’s oldest bush vines and it undergoes serial fermentation – first stainless steel then French barrel – in the care of Chenin maestro Johann Joubert, before a seven-month wait in barrel before release.

Santadi Villa Solais Vermentino di Sardegna 2010, Sardinia, Italy 

£7.32 @ Enotria

Is this Sardinia’s year? From nowhere come two Critics’ Choice awards, with this wine illustrating precisely why such regions are so exciting. Along with Tuscany, Sardinia is regarded as the best home for Vermentino, and here it is combined with 30% of native grape Nuragus to create a textured delight. Showing off its alleged Malvasia heritage, this Vermentino has aroma as well as spice and mineral freshness, created no doubt from the vineyard’s proximity to the coast.

Pauly Generations Riesling Feinherb 2010, Mosel, Germany 

£9.95 @ Liberty Wines

Barely into his 30s, Axel Pauly took over his father’s Mosel estate following time spent in California, New Zealand and elsewhere in Germany. With screwcaps, modern labels and a deliberately off-dry approach, this wine comes from steep slopes of slate conferring much minerality. Manual harvesting is a given, but leaf-plucking and crop-thinning? No wonder he achieves such complexity of flavour, and this from such a tricky vintage too.

Edoardo Miroglio Soli Pinot Noir 2008, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria

£6.90 @ Swig Wines

Sometimes it takes an outsider to really seize an opportunity, and in this case it was a visiting Italian, the textile entrepreneur Edoardo Miroglio, who has harnessed Thracian’s unrealised vinous potential. True, grapes have been growing here for eons, but Miroglio teamed Italian and Bulgarian specialists to create wines such as this, a light, red-berry-infused Pinot Noir that leans more towards Burgundy than any New World new-fangledness. Impressive, with light tannins and a long finish. And an incredible price.

La Chapelle d’Escurac Médoc 2007, Bordeaux, France 

£9.98 @ Enotria

From a historic Médoc estate on one of this region’s highest hills, comes this classy Bordeaux with a modern face, but then that’s what owner Jean-Marc Landureau is aiming for. ‘Really complex, with its rich, spicy aromatic nose, presenting fennel, cardamom, vegetal and earthy notes. Some ageing, but still good freshness,’ said an impressed Emilie Courtois of Terroirs. And a dead cert for steak, as its Food Match gong stands testament to.

Nuraghe Crabioni Cannonau di Sardegna 2009, Sardinia, Italy

£10.34 @ Italyabroad.com

A Critics Choice’ gong for an indigenous grape from Sardinia illustrates why its submitter, ItalyAbroad.com, won our Newcomer of the Year Merchant Award. A fascinating wine that intrigued our judges, this comes from family-owned vineyards facing the sea, and an estate named after the distinctive stone towers, the nuraghi, that pepper the island. The elegant wine marries plums and morello cherries with a savoury savoir faire. A real find.

Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah 2009, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 

£23.26 @ Coe Vintners

Crowning a succession of top awards for this relatively new Hawkes Bay winery comes this Critics Choice’ gong for its top Syrah, the Airavata. Loved for its expressive bouquet, with spicy ripe fruit, menthol and tobacco notes, what lifted it ahead of the pack was its deft integration of oak, its sumptuous structure and its lingering finish. Enjoy.

El Nido 2009, Jumilla, Spain 

£75.00 @ Boutinot

An incredible price for an incredible wine. But then look at its creators: the celebrated Gil family and equally talented Australian Chris Ringland. Getting together just 10 years ago, this is a 70:30 blend of 25-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon with old bush vine Monastrell, which boasts an almost indescribable complexity of rich, spicy flavours married with opulent ripe fruit. Prepare to swoon.

Simčič Leonardo 2005, Goriška Brda, Slovenia 

£23.85 @ Bancroft Wines

This distinctive wine wowed the critics throughout. But then it’s birth is quite distinctive too. The Ribolla grapes spend seven months air drying in wooden cases before being pressed using a traditional hand press, fermented in 130-litre oak barrels and further matured in barrel for another 2.5 years. The result? A ‘multidimensional’ wine, with ‘infinite concentration’ and ‘fantastic balance’. Pale tawny in colour, the nose alone mixes chocolate orange with caramel, honey and Christmas spices.