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Winner Details

New World: Zinfandel & Pinotage

2014: Gold 1 Silver 6 Bronze 2 Commended 5
2013: Gold 0 Silver 0 Bronze 3 Commended N/A
Must-list status: 15%
Overall SWA performance 2014: C+

If you had to stake your house on one category to come in with a fair haul of medals, it’s safe to say that you wouldn’t usually put it on this one. Not unless you genuinely wanted to try kipping under a cardboard box for a bit. Last year’s ‘three bronzes’ was arguably the nadir of the Sommelier Wine Awards 2013.

But this year was significantly better. And not just by comparison with previous years. Our tasters found wines that they genuinely, you know… liked.

‘At the top end there was really something special going on with the Pinotage,’ said a clearly flabbergasted Riccardo Giacomelli of Bocca di Lupo. ‘And at the lower end there were pub wines, full of joy and flavour for everyday drinking, great with sausages and burgers. A very successful and pleasantly surprising flight.’

‘We found some superbly elegant examples of Pinotage,’ chimed in team leader Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘A fine balance of ripe fruit and elegant tannins, with some wines that would give Burgundy a run for their money.’

‘Elegant’? ‘Burgundy substitute’? It’s Pinotage, Jim, but not as we know it.

Indeed, as several tasters pointed out, the biggest problem here would be in convincing the poor deluded burned-rubber fetishists who like the ‘typical’ Pinotage to buy into the modern stuff that actually tastes like wine.

This, perhaps, explains why nothing picked up Gold, but four Silvers and a Bronze was still a major achievement for this variety, and it’ll be interesting to see if it can build on this next year.

Zinfandel is typically a fairly small part of the competition, but has proved in the past that it can hit the heights, and it did so again this year. While it might have accrued fewer medals than Pinotage, it did get the only Gold.

The idea of Zin as a cheap-and-cheerful glugger was sorely tested with prices that mostly started over £10 and headed north with barely a backwards glance. But provided there was typical Zin-like juiciness and succulence, our tasters were mostly prepared to cut it some slack.


Despite encouraging flourishes, Pinotage has yet to get a wine on the Gold List.

From the Tasting Teams

‘We list Zin in certain venues, especially those with some American customers, or younger customers who like overt fruit.’ Matthew Cocks, Cubitt House Group

‘As an alternative to cheap Burgundy, many of these [Pinotages] would be much better.’ Sarah Jane Evans MW, team leader

‘We list one Pinotage. Some people love it, some people hate it.’ Adam Pawlowski, Northcote Manor

‘The wine must taste like Zinfandel – be a nice, full glass of drinkable red on its own, but also complement food. So it needs the fruit and structure, but must avoid being overblown.’
Paul Quintela, The Cricketers