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Winner Details

House Wines: Red

2014: Gold: 5; Silver: 12; Bronze: 10; Commended: 16
2013: Gold: 4; Silver: 13; Bronze: 10
Must-list index: 100%
Overall performance SWA 2014: B-

 As you might expect, prices were higher here than for the House Whites, with the average cost of the Gold-Listed wines a shade over £5. The New World incursion was, however, far less pronounced, with Europe (particularly the Languedoc) holding its own rather better and the New World’s medals tending to be bunched at the lower end.

And with a mix of wines from across Europe and the New World, there was plenty of variety on offer.

‘There were some different kinds of wines here – from light, fresh and fleshy to something more deep and tannic,’ said Etrusca Restaurant’s Luigi Buonanno. ‘For the house wine, what we’re looking for is drinkability.’

In the early stages, this wasn’t always easy, with what looked a lot like winemakers desperately trying to cover up some pretty average vintages with a bit of trickery in the winery.

‘I think they were not great vintages and the winemakers are playing with the wines too much,’ said Courtney Stebbings of The River Café. ‘The kind of flavours we were getting were not natural: smoke, spice, chips and hickory smoke.’

‘It was challenging,’ said Coq d’Argent’s Olivier Marie, with typical Gallic understatement.

The best wines generally had a brightness to them, with nicely rounded fruit but a freshness that would encourage repeat consumption; the most common failing was tannins that were more Rod Stewart than Nat King Cole.

But by the end of all the weeding out we were left with some truly great wines for the money here. ‘It’s a really decent set of House Reds,’ praised Gold List co-ordinator Christine Parkinson. ‘Better than in many years.’

From the Tasting Teams

‘If you nail the house wine, anyone will be more confident to pick another wine from your list.’ Luigi Buonanno, Etrusca Restaurants

‘We judged them on the assumption that you would be pouring them by the glass rather than necessarily with food. There were some reliably OK wines here that you could definitely put on the list.’ Giancarlo Cuccuru, The Gilbert Scott.

‘I’m looking for something that’s not too opulent – something well managed, where the tannins are there, but it’s still well balanced.’ Xavier Lamande, L’Etranger

‘I change my house wine every 4-6 months. Out of London you have to have a house wine because people ask for it.’ Lionel Periner, The Lucky Onion