Winner Details

Germany & Austria White

2014 Gold: 5; Silver: 10; Bronze: 4; Commended: 10
2013 Gold: 4; Silver: 7; Bronze: 8; Commended: N/A
Must-list status: 50%
Overall SWA performance 2014 B

The big story in this category this year was the rise of Austria and, if not the decline, then certainly the diminished presence of Germany. Historically, we’re lucky to get more than three or four Austrian medals, and hardly ever any Golds. But this year they were dominant.

Key to their success was (at last) a strong entry of Grüner Veltliners. Sommeliers love these wines the way that Katy Price loves media attention – a deep, visceral craving – and two Golds (from extremely well-priced to ‘useful trade-up’) plus five Silvers (again, throughout the price points) was a powerful performance.

Surprisingly, given that they are frequently one of the highlights, the Rieslings, by contrast, were a bit of a let-down.

‘I had high expectations, but was a little disappointed by the balance in a lot of these wines,’ sighed the Lucky Onion’s Lionel Periner. ‘The best wines were in the middle range, showing a fine balance of acidity and minerality. With the more expensive wines the price was too high for little improvement in quality.’

Having said that, while the overall medal count was lower than expected, once the unbalanced or overpriced wines had been weeded out, there was some high-quality kit left here.

‘Fantastic wines!’ swooned The Harrow at Little Bedwyn’s Roger Jones at the final round of tasting. ‘You don’t see enough of them [on lists], so we want to and should encourage the sale of these wines. We have no problem selling Riesling as we sell it by the glass and these are exceptional value wines.’

Austria’s 14 medals this year more than equals their haul for the previous four years of SWA combined.

 From the Tasting Teams

‘We do a lot of Grüner by the glass. Some people are still scared of Austrian wine, but others are getting used to it.’ Romain Bourger, The Vineyard at Stockcross

‘The best [Rieslings] are great on the list, pairing especially well with fish and shellfish, and they are relatively easy to sell once you explain their dry style.’ Gordon Lawrence, Fifteen Cornwall

‘There is room for several examples of Riesling, both drier and less dry styles, because as a sommelier this gives you a lot of opportunity to pair wines with a lot of foods, ranging from fresh seafood to Asian and spiced dishes to white meats and duck.’ Xavier Chapelou, consultant

‘The younger Grüners had that nice, spicy, radish-like quality – they were quite floral and light. Up around £10 you suddenly got wines that were a lot riper and richer. Though they nearly always had a good balance of freshness as well.’ Zigmars Grindberg, Hotel du Vin Brighton