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Home Winners > Winners 2012 > HOUSE WINES: White

Winner Details

House Wine: White

With a higher price ceiling this year, we saw more entries, better styles on offer – and some truly outstanding efforts for the money


If there is one area of the Sommelier Wine Awards that really is flying it’s the House Wines section. Both reds and whites saw their already-sizable entries jump by 40% on last year. The key players in the white category were France (all from the South) and Chile, which between them accounted for just under half of the entries.

A few years ago, it was a Big News Story that half the wines were screwcapped. Now, it’s more of a story when they’re not, which has, it must be said, by removing cheap cork and weirdo synthetic stoppers also stripped out a fair bit of potential for wine rejection. 

As has the general reduction in oak levels. Whether it’s a stylistic choice or simply that wineries can’t afford to mess about with any form of wood at these prices, the end result was a range of wines that were almost all wood-free. ‘Bright and fresh at this price level is best anyway,’ opined consultant Caspar Auchterlonie. ‘The customer doesn’t want anything too challenging.’

Maybe not, but the wines had to be more than just slightly yellow tap water. ‘The best wines were more than just clean and well made. They had a bit of character, weight and even texture,’ said Antoine Faucheux from Searcys Club, The Gherkin.

Prices ranged from the barely believable (just over £3) to a whisker under the newly raised limit of £5.50. Obviously, at this level a £2 difference in the cost of the liquid can go a long way, but it was interesting that the Golds were nearly all between £4 and £5, with only Thierry’s Beaux Galets Vin de France at £3.45 coming in lower, and no Golds between £5 and £5.50.

The Beaux Galets, in fact, is worthy of note, not only because it’s the only non-New World Gold, with the other slots all going to Chile and Argentina, but because tasters singled it out as being excellent right from the start. ‘At that price, you’d be daft not to put it on your list,’ praised consultant Natasha Hughes.

Sauvignon Blanc has always done well here, but this year the tasters found a slightly broader spread of varietals and styles: everything from wines like the Adobe Sauvignon, through the aromatics of the Trivento Tribu Torrontés to the richer, spicier notes of Tabalí's Viognier.

‘The Adobe Sauvignon is one of those crowd-pleasing styles,’ said The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking. ‘There’s minerality, there’s fruit, there’s acidity. It’ll be sub-£25 on most restaurant lists and could cope with quite highly spiced dishes.’

‘The Tribu Torrontés is a little different for a house wine offering – an aromatic wine and most people wouldn’t consider doing that,’ said Ashdown Park’s Nick Chiu. ‘It’s quite subtle as well, and I think the obvious thing here would be to go with Asian foods.’

‘This is the category where you can make the biggest profits. And the wines here were punching way above their weight, with a good stylistic range. It was the same last year: they over-delivered.’ Michael Harrison, Hotel du Vin, Henley

‘You don’t want too much acidity in a House White – and you don’t want oak. A lot of the wines here got that right.’   Roberto Loppi, Hakkasan

‘The House Wine selection should show several facets, but all showing versatility and drinkability.’
Joris Beijn, Andaz