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House Wine: White

The 2012 vintage might have hit the number of entries, but the quality, once again, was impressively consistent


After years of (rapid) growth, the number of entries in House Whites took a tumble this year. Since red numbers held up, it seems likely that this is the first evidence of the effect of the short 2012 vintage.

Fewer entries might have meant fewer medals than last year, but in terms of quality the House Whites performed well – easily the strongest of the three House categories. And with the overall standard reasonable, our tasters were able to look for wines that had that bit extra.

Decent efforts under £4 were viewed particularly favourably, since they could scrape on to a list under the crucial £15 mark. Above this the tasters stopped being satisfied merely with ‘clean and value for money’ and started to expect a bit more.

And by the time prices were up around £5 a bit of character (whether regional or varietal) wasn’t just an attractive extra, but an essential, as our judges started to bandy around words such as ‘texture’ and ‘minerality’.

‘You’re looking for a classic style, something people will recognise: Sauvignon Blanc from NZ, or Chablis-type flavours, or Viognier,’ said Philippe Moranges of
Hakkasan Hanway Place. ‘If people recognise it, they will go for it without questioning.’

A certain number of the wines that failed to medal were examples where the use of oak chips, to give complexity, had been a little clumsy (or even unnecessary). But there were nowhere near as many of these than a few years ago.

And interestingly, while a couple of years back the grassy Sav-like style (however and from whichever variety it was created) was very common, this year there seemed to be rather more wines with richness and texture, with Chardonnay and/or Viognier increasingly in the mix.

At almost a pound cheaper than any others on the Gold List, the stand-out wine in terms of price was the Michel Servin Blanc. ‘It had enough character to carry through from the bar to the table with simple food, and at a great price,
which allows a sensible mark-up,’ said Michael Moore of Enigma 88.

Since it also represents the Food Match-winning Baron de Baussac Pays d’Oc Viognier (praised by Ransome’s Dock’s Martin Lam for its ‘viscosity’), Majestic Commercial can feel pleased with its work in this section of the competition.

And Berkmann ought to feel smug too that its made-for-Asian-food Tamarind Garden wine was picked out (blind, of course) by the tasters as ideal for just this purpose. ‘Well worth a paying a little extra for,’ said The Plough Inn’s Jenny Mackenzie. ‘This is a very food-friendly style, very well made and ideal with Asian-spiced food.’

All in all, our tasters managed to put together a strong selection of wines for the Gold List here, in a variety of styles from fresh and zesty to richer and more food friendly. It was proof of a good selection of submissions. 

‘People want no issues with a house white, they don’t want to be complicated by something that’s going to confuse their palate.’
Marco Feraldi, St James’s Hotel and Club

‘The good ones were just balanced. We stuck to the basics and looked for some personality and character.’
Foni Tsouvallas, The Folly

‘If you have room for several entry level wines then you can play around with different styles, even an oaky Chardonnay or a Sauvignon, but the first on the list should be a good all-rounder.’
Simon Cassina, Mondial Wines