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Winner Details

House Wine: White

2014: Gold: 6; Silver: 11; Bronze: 12; Commended: 9
2013: Gold: 5; Silver: 11; Bronze: 12
Must-list index: 100%
Overall performance SWA 2014: C+


It’s incredible to think that when we first started SWA in 2007, the price cut-off for the House Wine category was £4 – and we got plenty of entries. Last year, only two medal winners squeaked in sub £4, and this year just one – Greene King’s Silver-winning Sicilian white.

It’s not too hysterical to say that the trade is seeing the death of the cheap bottle of wine. When even proven value-searchers such as Boutinot can’t get a Southern French white blend out at under £5, you know prices are significantly higher than they were five years ago.

On this evidence, it’s European regions that have been hardest hit by the rises. While Southern Italy and the South of France still had their successes, their influence here is declining. Chile took four of the six Golds, and the New World was responsible for half the remaining medals.

This shift towards the New World might have explained a new problem for the tasters. While there were commendably few awful wines (no mean feat given the price constraints), a good many of the wines tasted were not stylistically right for the role they were being asked to fill.

‘Some of these almost had too much personality to be house wines,’ said Simone Fadda of Nobu Berkeley Street.

No surprise, then, that one of the most popular wines was also the cheapest. Not simply because it had a chance of sneaking in under the crucial £15 price point on a list, but because it ticked all the boxes stylistically. ‘I look for something not too pungent, not too ripe, with crispness, easiness, freshness – something not really complicated. [The Tavino] was all of that,’ said consultant sommelier Nicolas Clerc MS.


Majestic Commercial, Concha y Toro, Boutinot and Greene King between them accounted for two-thirds of the medal winners here.

From the Tasting Teams

‘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

‘In the brasseries and bars it’s much tougher now. People want more, but they don’t want to pay for it.’ Claire Love, Loves Restaurant

‘You want something that’s distinctive, but not in a manner that people will say it doesn’t taste like I thought it would. Something that stretches their imagination, but is approachable.’ Charles Pashby-Taylor, Dabbous

‘These are wines where you don’t want too much character, but something that will please most customers as an easy-drinking wine.’ Xavier Rousset MS, 28°-50°/Texture

‘Given duty and tax, it is quite remarkable how much quality is in some of these wines… The cheapest were really quite good.’ Xavier Le-Bellego, Forburys Restaurant