Home Winners > Winners 2012 > NEW WORLD: Other White Varietals & Blends

Winner Details

New World: Other White Varietals & Blends

The overall standard might have been mixed, but the medal winners showed some interesting emerging trends in the New World that are well worth watching

With all the well-known single-varietal wines having categories of their own now in the Sommelier Wine Awards, the Other Whites section is now largely made up of unusual blends, such as the Silver medal-winning Signos Chardonnay/Marsanne/Viognier/Roussanne. Though the appearance among the medals of an Arneis and a Gruner Veltliner from New Zealand hints at a few new single-varietal styles that might be worth keeping an eye on in the future.

In the past, perhaps surprisingly, this hasn’t necessarily been a place to go hunting for cheap wines, tending to attract what look suspiciously like winemaker vanity projects: odd blends with too much oak and high price tags. But this year was notable for the fact that around 80% of all the entries were under £10.

While it’s impossible to generalise authoritatively about a category that included everything from Moscato and Albariño to Gruner and oddball blends, there seems to be a growing interest in white Rhône varietals. Again, a trend worth watching, even if few of them picked up medals.

Since none of these wines would have a fashionable grape variety attached to them, our tasters were conscious that the wines needed to deliver (a) good value for money and (b) plenty of interest in the glass to inspire sommeliers to hand-sell it.

‘I was looking first at prices, then asking does it have a wow factor,’ said The French Table’s Sarah Guignard. ‘And if so, it would be good By the Glass? I wanted wines here that would satisfy customers looking for something new – varieties that aren’t so well known.’

As you might expect, given that many of these wines are, to a degree, experimental, there were a fair few failures, and the hit rate of entries to medals was decidedly on the low side. ‘Alternative styles or varieties have to be very good and few of these had enough of interest going on to justify a listing,’ said Antoine Dugand of Le Pont de la Tour.

The advantage, though, is that when this category gets it right it can throw up real gems. The Rude Mechanicals Viognier/Pinot Gris was a fresh, vibrant, yet still comforting wine that was suggested as a match for Asian food, but actually picked up a Food Match award with pork belly. Not bad for a shade over £6.50 a bottle.

‘These are wines that need to excite, that need some swagger. Price is not an issue if there is excitement in the bottle; selling is not an issue if the wines have clearly defined regionality or varietal style.’ Andrea Bricarello, Galvin Restaurants