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Winner Details

New World: Malbec

2014: Gold 1 Silver 4 Bronze 5 Commended 5
2013: Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze 4 Commended N/A
Must-list status: 95%
Overall SWA performance 2014: C

There are some categories where the teams struggle for the exact adjective – and the way in which team leader Neil Bruce tied himself up in knots searching for the mot juste to describe the wines he’d just tasted spoke volumes.

‘I don’t mind big tannins if they come with big fruit,’ he said, ‘but some of these wines were enormous as opposed to simply massive!’

We could debate for hours as to whether ‘enormous’ is bigger than ‘massive’ and never reach a conclusion, but the general point was well made: these were not shy and retiring wines.

Nor, interestingly, were they especially cheap. Admittedly, many of the sub-£12 versions were submitted in the Varietal Classic section, so what we were left with here was Malbecs of more serious intent. But there was a feeling from the tasters that they could have done with lightening up a bit… thrown in a bit of Benny Hill along with the Brecht.

‘There was some challenging stuff here,’ said a purple-tongued consultant Ronan Sayburn MS. ‘At the lower prices, the wines showed better as they relied more on fruit, but further up the flight many were really OTT.’

Still, dead cow is very definitely having a bit of a moment just now, and there was no question that many of these would be better with a sizable chunk of ex-bovine. And the £40 bottle of Malbec plus £20 steak is a well-established combination.

But still, it would be nice if the Argentines could find a way of retaining some of the aromatic beauty of Malbec when moving up the price scales, rather than extracting the hell out of it and creating wines that are either enormous or massive.

FOOTNOTE: Argentinian Malbec costing less than £12 ex-VAT can be entered either here or in the relevant Varietal Classic category.

From the Tasting Teams

‘For sure there’s not much you can sell straightaway here. You have to wait.’ Mauro Pirovano, Le Pont de la Tour
‘The Doña Paula would be best paired with a cow that’s barely dead.’
Gordon Lawrence, Fifteen Cornwall