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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > Rest of the Old World, including Turkey, Greece & Lebanon

Winner Details

Rest of the Old World, including Turkey, Greece & Lebanon

A sudden influx of wines from the Eastern Med and Balkans saw an explosion of medals here – and lots of genuinely excited tasters

From having been a small, somewhat under-represented category that grudgingly throws up the odd tasty nugget, this part of the competition took off big-time in 2013, with a large number of entries from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. From six medals last year (itself a record), 2013 saw an incredible 40.

These countries are often the kinds of place that appear on page 41 of the wine list – tucked away at the back, like jars of capers in a condiment cupboard, where they languish similarly forgotten. But on this evidence they positively demand more attention. Our tasters were fascinated by what they tried.

The whites ran the gamut from whimsical, aromatic Sauvignon Blancs and tarty Muscats to sappy Narinces and oaked Burgundy wannabe Chardonnays. The flight was a real Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates range of wines – you never knew what you were going to get.

But – and this is perhaps the crucial point – whatever the winemakers were aiming for they more or less pulled off. Whether local varieties fermented in earthenware jars or the most international of cool-fermented wine styles, there were very few failures.

‘There was no bad winemaking,’ said a happily surprised Tom Forrest of Vinopolis. ‘It’s just that some were better than others.’

‘There’s real excitement here,’ said a clearly thrilled Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn – articulating what his team all felt. ‘These are the kind of wines that you can serve by the glass to customers, and that they will find really stimulating.’

Although their unusual provenance might make them a hand sell, the pricing for the whites was highly impressive. Outside house wines, there’s nowhere in this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards that has produced three Gold-listed wines under £6.20. And even Kavaklıdere’s Cotes d’Avanos at £11.18 over-delivered. ‘This was someone doing Burgundy to whatever grape they have and doing it damn well,’ said an admiring Martin Lam of Ransome’s Dock.

For the reds… well, it was more of the same. Tasters loved flights of wine that went from soft and juicy to earthy and tannic, from hot and raisiny to herbal and garriguey. And again, the standard was impressive.

‘You had the impression that these might have been from tiny producers with smaller quantities of wine,’ said Cubitt House’s Matthew Cocks, while Enigma 88’s Michael Moore, possibly looking towards the sandwiches lined up for lunch, commented that ‘a lot of these wines would really hit the spot for food’.

Unlike the whites, however, pricing was definitely more of an issue for the reds. More than half of the medal winners were over the £10 mark, which would make them quite a tough sell for even a committed sommelier, and at times ego was clearly outstripping common sense.

‘I’m excited to see wines from emerging areas,’ mused consultant Peter McCombie MW. ‘But there’s always that moment when people discover oak – and consultants love barrels. Some of these are swamped by oak.’

Nonetheless, there were some really good – and interesting – wines here throughout the medals.

Where wines are not yet available in the UK, a realistic estimate of the DPD price is given, and the winery’s details are given to contact.

‘I was intrigued by these, and my customers would love them. They like wines that are different.’
Richard Graham, Cooks & Capers

‘There’s a lot of good stuff coming out of Turkey now, with both indigenous and international grape varieties, and the prices are fantastic.’
Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

‘If the quality, price and value all add up, then this is fertile ground for some real beauties. Especially if you put these on by the glass.’
Gergely Barsi Szabó, Bread Street Kitchen