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Winner Details


They might not fly off the list unless you push them, but on this evidence Portugal is delivering real character and value for money at the moment


You can learn a lot in the Sommelier Wine Awards about what the importers think is currently hot by studying the submission trends. Five years ago, we were inundated with Chilean wines; three years back there was a big jump in Italian entries. Now it’s the turn of Iberia – especially Portugal.

Entries from the latter have soared, and medals have gone with them. From seven or eight medals two years ago, the country is now comfortably above 20. Moreover, it’s doing it without the Douro really firing on all cylinders.

In the early rounds, the tasters enjoyed reds with ‘typicity and minerality’ that ‘showed real Douro character’. But strangely, the positive feedback from the early stages didn’t continue when our tasters were selecting wines for the Gold List, with the balance between fruit and tannin/alcohol tipping a bit too far towards the latter.

‘For me, there was not enough fruit there throughout the flight,’ said a disappointed Agustin Trapero of Launceston Place.

Instead, Portugal’s star region this year was the Alentejo. It’s been a steady performer in SWA in the past, but here it really delivered, with three of the country’s four Gold-listed wines. In fact, the Portuguese reds in general were well received, with words like ‘inspiring’, ‘exciting’ and ‘characterful’ scattered around like bacalao in a Lisbon fish restaurant.

‘All the medal winners showed typicity,’ said consultant Annette Scarfe MW. ‘There is little point listing Portugal if it tastes like it could come from anywhere.’

‘When you consider the quality in some of these wines for the price, it is worth making the extra effort to hand sell,’ added Jacques Savary de Beauregard of Home House. ‘Once the customer tries these wines they will like what’s in the glass.’

Of the two Golds, the Rocha Rosa, was a supple, easy drinker that really over-delivered for the price and would suit pretty much any style of venue, from pub to white tablecloth. The Monte da Ravasqueira was a wine for more upmarket eateries.

‘Charming,’ said Martin Lam of Ransome’s Dock of the latter. ‘It speaks volumes about regionality; a beautifully balanced, mid-weight wine.’

‘Portugal is not just putting cheap wines in any more,’ added Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson as she oversaw the compilation of the Gold List. ‘It had good wines at higher prices too.’

The whites were rather more mixed, and a good number were kicked out for not being flamboyantly Portuguese enough. Our tasters wanted wines that really mangled their vowels and sounded like Sean Connery talking Spanish with a Norwegian accent.

The best examples ticked the ‘versatile’ and ‘characterful’ boxes big-time. And they did it, moreover, without rifling through the purchaser’s wallet.

‘All the medal winners represented the varieties and styles that Portugal does well,’ said consultant Robert Giorgione. ‘They were wines with integrity. There were some other good wines, but price held back a few from getting medals.’

As with the reds, our panel found two very different wines for the Gold List: the well-priced easy-drinking Verdelho from Esporao and the pricier but undeniably classy Prova Regia.

‘There was a lot on offer here,’ said Hakkasan Hanway Place’s Gabor Foth. ‘Really good minerality, great balance and intensity. It’s a layered, complex wine.’

‘The red flight really represented what is going on in Portugal right now, and the good value to be found.’
Robert Giorgione, consultant

‘The wines I favoured were those that would stand out a little and give a point of difference on the list.’
Laurent Richet MS, Restaurant Sat Bains

‘The reds were a very inspiring flight, with good quality at the lighter end, wines showing attractive fruit and balance, and real character and complexity at the higher prices.’
Ram Chhetri, Bread Street Kitchen