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PRODUCERS OF THE YEAR

It’s not easy to make wine good enough to pick up one Gold medal in SWA, let alone several. So to do it across a variety of styles and price points is a real achievement. And while a handful of wineries managed impressive hauls of medals this year, these three producers really stood out.

SPARKLING WINE PRODUCER OF THE YEAR - CHAMPAGNE LANSON

3 GOLD, 2 SILVER, 2 COMMENDED

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Paul Beavis and Federica Compostella

We’ve only ever given out one Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year award before (to Charles Heidsieck two years ago) – probably because, in such a competitive part of the competition, it’s so incredibly rare for any winery to get more than one Gold. So Lanson’s performance this year really merits recognition. Its Golds, moreover, included a variety of styles: non-vintage, rosé and off-dry, suggesting a real consistency of excellence across the portfolio just at the moment. And if its NV Gold was at the upper end of the spectrum for what can be a price-sensitive part of the wine list, it was backed up by two very well-priced Silvers under £15 and £25 respectively.
Suppliers: Bibendum Wine, Matthew Clark.
 

EUROPEAN PRODUCER OF THE YEAR - SAN MARZANO

3 GOLD, 6 SILVER, 2 COMMENDED

For most sommeliers, the south of Italy is a place to go looking for a bit of cheap’n’cheerful. But it can be the home of real quality, too – and we saw that this year from San Marzano. Founded in 1962, this Salentobased co-op has grown significantly, and now has an astonishing 1,200 growers contributing their fruit every year. It frequently picks up a good spread of well-priced Silvers in SWA, but this year it really moved up a notch, with a sub-£8 Sauvignon/Malvasia, and two high-quality premium reds around the £15 mark, a Primitivo and a Negroamaro. These Golds were backed up with an incredible six Silvers, often at super-competitive prices. Its performance here marks a terrific one-two for Hallgarten Druitt & Novum, who also import Saint Clair.
Suppliers: Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines.
 

NEW WORLD PRODUCER OF THE YEAR - SAINT CLAIR

5 GOLD, 2 SILVER

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Matt Thomson with Chris Losh

Three Gold medals in SWA is a real achievement, four is an absolute rarity (Salentein achieved it for the first time last year) and we’d never had a producer notch up five. Until this year. Kiwi producer Saint Clair has been a solid performer at SWA down the years, but it absolutely caught fire in 2017. It has a burgeoning reputation for the sublime quality of its Sauvignons, and that was backed up here, where it took all three of New Zealand’s ‘premium Sauvignon Blanc’ slots on the Gold List. It also recorded the country’s only Chardonnay Gold and, impressively, even managed to get an elegant Merlot onto the List, too. With two attractive Marlborough Pinots also picking up Silvers, it was an astonishingly good all-round performance from a not especially large producer.
Supplier: Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines.