The best wines from The Global Pinot Grigio Masters

We bring you the best wines from The Global Pinot Grigio Masters 2020, taking in brilliant bottles from around the world, including Italy and France, as well as England, California, Oregon, Canada and New Zealand.

It’s said that popularity, like familiarity, breeds contempt, and what’s true of people, is also, it seems, applicable to Pinot Grigio. This variety, when used to produce delicate whites at low prices, has become so prevalent, it is often derided – that is, among wine drinkers with a snobbish side.

However, one should consider what it is about Pinot Grigio, or rather, Pinot Gris – it is a French grape after all – that made it so popular in the first place.

Well, its rise to become one of the world’s best-selling white grapes, alongside Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, relates to its lighter side as a fresh, apple-scented white from the northern Italian area of the Veneto – now successfully rebranded as Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC. Grown in this part of Europe, the grape carved out a market, particularly in the UK, for clean, vinous refreshment at a keen price, and at a time when the competition at this level may have been flabby, oxidative, or off-dry. And the same style of bright, fresh Pinot Grigio is popular today, despite its critics, who tend to mock the wines for being dull and dilute – a fair accusation only for the cheapest expressions from over-cropped vineyards; wines that wouldn’t pass the new DOC taste tests.

The vast majority of Pinot Grigio from around the Veneto, however, is a delight, loaded with ripe orchard fruits and lemon zest, with notes of cream and bitter almond too.

But this is just one face of Pinot Grigio, and therein lies its appeal. It can take on many forms, from light pink, or ‘gris’, to sparkling, bone dry to richly sweet.

Plus, it performs well in a wide variety of climes and soils – with our top scorers this year hailing from Italy and France as one might expect, but also England, California, Oregon, Canada and New Zealand.

Among the still dry wines, while Pinot Grigio flavour profiles can range from crisp apple and lemon to richer notes of pear and peach, it’s really the texture of the wine that tends to vary the most. This is a grape that can, if harvested late from low yielding vineyards, produce wines with a marked and satisfying oiliness, even without residual sugar.

Then there’s its affinity for ageing in wood, with nutty characters complementing the variety’s yellow fruit notes, and honeyed characters from oxidative handling in barriques balancing the grape’s citric edge.

In essence, you’d be wrong to knock Pinot Grigio, as it comes in many styles, and quality levels, from fine barrel-aged whites to fresh, delicate drops.

As for where to go for the best examples, well, look to our medalists in the following tables – with reliably good Pinot Grigio producers including Frescobaldi (Attems), Castello di Roncade, Mission Hill Estate, La Roncaia and Marisco (The King’s Thorn).

One final point, and that concerns a loose guide to the type of Pinot Grigio you can expect. Generally, those wines labelled Pinot Gris tend to be richer and more viscous in style. The areas where that character is favoured tend to be Alsace and Marlborough.

So, if you like your whites with weight, look to these parts of the wine world. But if it’s something light you’re after, then Italy is an ideal source, if not the only place for such a bright type of white, as the results from the competition show.

Please read on for the results in full from 2020’s Global Pinot Grigio Masters, along with some comments from the judges, and further information about the competition.

Sparkling White Pinot Gris

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Cantina Viticoltori Ponte Spumante DOC Brut delle Venezie Veneto Italy NV Silver
La Cantina Pizzolato Sparkling DOC delle Venezie Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
La Cantina Pizzolato Sparkling DOC delle Venezie Extra Brut “So Easy” Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£30-£50
Fox & Fox Inspiration Brut Blanc de Gris Sussex UK 2014 Gold

Sparkling Rosé Pinot Gris

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Think Wine Group Think Pink Veneto Italy NV Bronze

Unoaked Pinot Gris 

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Castello di Roncade Pinot Grigio DOC Venezia Veneto Italy 2019 Gold
Bestheim Pinot Gris Premium Reserve Alsace France 2019 Gold
Citra Vini Farinelli Pinot Grigio Abruzzo Italy 2019 Silver
Poderi dal Nespoli Il Papavero Pinot Grigio Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Perlage Winery Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Cantina Viticoltori Ponte Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Bosco Viticultori Bosco dei Cirmioli Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Ca’ di Rajo Pinot Grigio Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Antonio Facchin e Figli Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Enoitalia Ca’ Mandato Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC Trentino Italy 2018 Silver
Casa Vinicola Sartori Pinot Grigio Friuli Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Casa Vinicola Sartori Pinot Grigio delle Venezie “Villa Mura” Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Fossa Mala Pinot Grigio Friuli Italy 2019 Silver
Aldi Ireland Freeman’s Bay New Zealand Pinot Gris Gisborne Italy 2019 Silver
Cecilia Beretta “Grigio Luna” Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Ca’Duso Motolo – tRe Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Cavit Mastri Vernacoli Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver
Aldi Ireland Castellore Pinot Grigio Sauvignon Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Qualia Wines Barramundi Pinot Grigio SE Australia Australia 2018 Bronze
te Pā Family Vineyards Pa Road Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Bronze
Kris Winery Kris Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Vigna Dogarina Pinot Grigio DOC Venezia Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Concilio Pinot Grigio Sentiero dei Pini Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
Concilio Pinot Grigio delle Venezie Il Pino Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Enoitalia Pendium Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Casa Vinicola Sartori Arco dei Giovi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Casa Girelli Canaletto Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2020 Bronze
Antonutti Pinot Grigio DOC Friuli Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Cielo e Terra Bericanto Pinot Grigio DOC Vicenza Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Perlage Winery Terra Viva Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Cantine di Ora Il Casato – Pinot Grigio Valdadige DOC Valdadige Italy 2019 Bronze
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Pasqua Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Cavit Terrazze della Luna Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
Santa Helena Santa Helena Varietal Central Valley Chile 2020 Bronze
Aldi Ireland Castellore Pinot Grigio Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Aldi Ireland Castellore Organico Pinot Grigio Terre Siciliane IGT Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Mission Hill Estate Winery Estate Series Pinot Gris Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Gold
Trinchero Family Estates SeaGlass Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County USA 2018 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Wakefield Taylors Pinot Gris Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Castelfeder Winery Pinot Grigio 15 Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Pinot Grigio Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards Leefield Station Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Trinchero Family Estates Three Thieves Pinot Grigio California USA 2018 Silver
Cavit Bottega Vinai Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC Trentino Italy 2019 Silver
te Pa Family Vineyards Montford Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
te Pa Family Vineyards te Pa Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Yealands Wine Group Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Gris Auckland New Zealand 2018 Bronze
te Pa Family Vineyards Pa Road Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand 2020 Bronze
Attems Attems Pinot Grigio Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Cantine di Ora/Kellerei Auer Pinot Grigio DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Trinchero Family Estates Joel Gott Oregon Pinot Gris Oregon USA 2018 Gold
The Lane Vineyard The Lane Pinot Gris Adelaide Hills Australia 2020 Silver
Cavit Ruendis Pinot Grigio Trentino Superiore DOC Trentino Italy 2018 Silver
Colle Duga Collio Pinot Grigio Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2018 Silver
Cabert – Cantina di Bertiolo Pinot Grigio DOC Friuli Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Banfi San Angelo Toscana Italy 2019 Bronze
Stopham Vineyard Winery Stopham Pinot Gris West Sussex UK 2018 Bronze
Masottina Ai Palazzi Dorsoduro DOC delle Venezie Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Mission Hill Estate Winery Reserve Pinot Gris Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Master
Giusti Wine Pinot Grigio Longheri Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Cantina Valle Isarco Pinot Grigio Aristos Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver

Oaked Pinot Gris

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Thorn Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
te Pa Family Vineyards te Pa Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
£15-£20
Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio Bolzano Italy 2019 Silver
£20-£30
La Roncaia La Roncaia Pinot Grigio Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Master
La Roncaia La Roncaia Pinot Grigio Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy 2018 Master
Masottina Ai Palazzi Pinot Grigio Single Vineyard DOC Venezia Veneto Italy 2017 Silver

Rosé Pinot Gris

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Albino Armani Colle Ara Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver
Cavit Pinot Grigio Rosato IGT Vigneti delle
Dolomiti Terrazze della Luna
Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver
di Lenardo Gossip Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Concilio Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC Il Pino Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver

Judge’s comment: David Round MW

Pinot Grigio is a grape with a reputation for uniformity and inoffensiveness that makes it commercially extremely appealing while failing to excite a feeling of anticipation. This tasting showed in sharp relief the variability of this variety, according not only to climate, but also specific location.
This broad range of styles was evident even in the under £10 category, which revealed Pinot Grigio to be a chameleon of a grape. Sometimes it had a combination of green apple and high acidity reminiscent of Loire Chenin Blanc, while we saw examples with a gooseberry and grassy character that were a dead ringer for Sauvignon Blanc (Mission Hill, Canada). We even saw a lychee character that pointed more towards Gewurztraminer (Yealand, New Zealand and Three Thieves, California).
Winemaking also plays its part. There were lots of wines with a slightly reductive, struck match, hydrogen sulphide character that is clearly deliberate and quite appealing when well-judged. This seems to be common among New Zealand examples (three Te Pa wines from Marlborough), but also Californian (Seaglass) and only really appears above £10.
Below that price level, the most successful examples were showed clean, unadulterated flavours of apple, pear, peach, apricot and gooseberry, often with an added herbal component in the form of fennel or coriander, and the riper examples extended to lychee and guava. Typically the wines had good balancing acidity. The standard was high.
The oaked wines that we saw were pretty much universally successful, showing good integration and harmony.

Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

A delightful judging day with plenty of interest and surprises! The global selection contained so many delicious wines with the best having purity, juicy fruit flavours and balance. When oak was used, the wood seemed to integrate rather than dominate.

As expected, northern Italy dominated the inexpensive unoaked Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. The best showed lovely custard or peach and passionfruit flavours and balanced acidity with accents of rose petal, white flowers or orange and lemon zest. These Under £10 wines seemed best when dry or nearly dry with relatively low alcohol and sufficient acidity. Easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing wines. There were some lovely Pinot Grigio DOC wines from the Veneto and a couple of exciting Pinot Gris-styles from Alsace and Alto Adige. At £10-15 there were expressive wines from New and Old World regions and a few excellent examples of pure Pinot Gris from Friuli in the far northeastern reaches of Italy, Okanagan in Canada and Santa Barbara in California. Excellent value-for money exists in this price bracket.

Above £15 the wines performed consistently well with many of the wines receiving Silvers at least. At the stratospheric end (for Pinot Gris) was a stunningly good example from Okanagan, which deserves a place on the table as an alternative to unoaked Chardonnay.

The, admittedly few, oaked white Pinot Gris were quite high-priced (£15 and upwards for the most part) and all deserving of silvers, golds and even a Master. These wines had beautifully-judged use of creamy oak supporting the lovely aromas and fleshy flavours of the variety.

The rosé Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio, albeit not a large group, were actually quite nice and relatively inexpensive, under £15. This appears to be growing category and probably with justification for easy-drinking styles, perfumed and juicy without too much sweetness.

Sparkling white Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio at Under £10 appears to be a valid alternative to Prosecco and the wines, with perhaps a little more citrus character and length of finish. One absolute ‘cracker’ was the (almost) outrageously expensive English Sparkling Pinot Gris, with balance, length, intensity and depth of flavour, worth every tuppence it costs.

A final comment: Some excellent wines and some excellent value. In comparison with previous years of The Global Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Masters, I found much better consistency in every price bracket with not a single wine I would not drink a glass of.

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Pinot Grigio Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world. The 2020 competition was judged by David Round MW, Patrick Schmitt MW and Patricia Stefanowicz MW in December at London’s 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Pinot Grigio Master.

Here, we feature the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The best wines from The Global Riesling Masters 2020

One of the favourite grapes of the true wine connoisseur, Riesling comes in many types, from sparkling to dry, from medium to sweet. But our annual blind-tasting test showed that there are delights in all categories. Read on for an analysis of the results and a list of all the medallists from the 2020 competition.

If you want proof of Riesling’s versatility, then look at the spread of top medals in this year’s competition. Held for pure Riesling only, we had fantastic entries for sparkling wine, dry still wines, medium dry and sweet ones, including an outstanding Icewine at the end of the tasting. It shows that not only can Riesling be used to make a wide array of wine styles, but in each case, it can achieve excellence. This is rare in the wine world, where noble grapes tend to create something exceptional in one or two styles, with only Chenin Blanc, and perhaps Furmint, being other grape varieties that can I can think of that are capable of yielding excellent sparkling, dry and sweet results.

So, starting with the sparkling Riesling, with had a small taste of Sekt, with two delicious examples from Kessler in Württemberg, with the second notable for its fresh chalky edge, and intense, lime-like fruit. Then we came across another sparkling, which was a touch pricier, but with a more powerful flavour combination of peach, citrus and biscuit, and then the bright, firm, hallmark Riesling acidity. We awarded this a Gold, and later learnt that it was from Thirty Bench in Canada, and not Germany, as had been presumed.

Among the still wines in the tasting, starting with the driest Rieslings, the quality was high, and while a few of the wines seemed a touch dilute, there seemed to be fewer incidences of fiercely acidic samples, the sort that finished firm, as opposed to fresh.

Notable among the dry samples were two wines in particular. The first of these was the Riesling Les Princes Abbés from Domaines Schlumberger in Alsace, which impressed the judges with its combination of tangerine, lime and beeswax in a textured, slightly evolved and dry style.

The other Golds in the dry category were pricier, and both came from Australia’s Clare Valley. The cheaper of these, from Wakefield/Taylors, was a brilliant example of its type, with masses of juicy lime, and a dry, stone-like finish – it was bright, but not sharp.

The other, from Kilikanoon Wines, was similarly dry and fresh, and also loaded with lime, but being an older vintage – it was from 2011 – it had the lovely flavours of aged Riesling, from toast to a touch of kerosene. But running both these wines close were a sweep of excellent Rieslings, as you can see from the high number of Silvers, even under £15.

In other words, if you opt for dry Riesling, particularly from Australia’s Clare and Eden Valley, then you can be assured a high standard of wine, with clean citrus fruit, and Riesling’s wonderful crisp character.

When it came to those Rieslings with just a touch of residual sugar, the medium-dry style, again the standard was high, with any sweetness more than offset by the high natural acidy of this grape variety.

Within the ‘medium-dry’ flight we tasted some lovely floral peachy samples from Chile (Cono Sur) and a good value wine from New Zealand (Hunter’s). Among the Golds was a ripe and bright Riesling mixing peach and pear with fresh lime zest, which hailed from Casablanca in Chile (Casas del Bosque) and soft, pure, persistent sample from the Pflaz in Germany (Ruppertsberger Weinkeller Hoheburg).

CRISP FINISH

At higher prices, there were two brilliant Rieslings from Domaines Schlumberger, representing a pair of Alsace grands crus: Saering and Kessler, with the former showing a touch more ripe peachy fruit, honey and tangerine, and the latter more pear and apple, along with chalk and salt characters on its crisp finish.

Germany was the source nation of the final Gold in this sweetness category, with the powerful Rheingau Grosses Gewachs Riesling from Weingut August Eser, loaded with apricot richness, a touch of sweetness, and a stony, dry, lime-fresh finish.

The rest of our outstanding wines came at higher sweetness levels, notably the Riesling Rotschiefer from the Mosel’s Weingut Sorentburg, with peach and strawberry, a whiff of kerosine, and a persistent clean citrus note.

Then came our first Riesling Master, which was from the same winery, but this was its old vine expression from the 2017 vintage, which was a highly impressive wine, with apricot, marmalade and beeswax, a touch of sweetness, and then a long, apple-like bright finish.

Finally, we had some very sweet Rieslings, including a delicious Auslese from Weingut August Eser. Although the wine had more than 100g/l of residual sugar, it was still a beautifully clean and fresh expression.

Our final wine of the tasting turned out to be another Master. It was layered with fruit flavours from mango to apricot, along with dried apple and raisins. It was unctuous too, with almost 190g/l of sugar, but offset by a tangy freshness. It had the characters of great Icewine, which we later learnt it was, and from Canada’s Andrew Peller Estates.

Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

Sparkling

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Kessler Sekt Kessler Jägergrün Riesling Brut Württemberg Germany NV Silver
£15-£20
Kessler Sekt Kessler Riesling Reserve Vintage Württemberg Germany 2016 Silver
£20-£30
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling Beamsville Bench Canada NV Gold

Dry (0-4 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington State USA 2019 Silver
RockBare Rockbare Clare Valley Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Reillys Wines Reillys Watervale Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
McGuigan McGuigan Cellar Select Riesling Hilltops Australia 2018 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Aldi Exquisite Collection Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
£15-£20
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbés Alsace France 2016 Gold
Gatt Wines High Eden Single Vineyard Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
McGuigan McGuigan Shortlist Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Block Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Block Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Reserve Parcel Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Gold
Tempus Two Tempus Two Pewter Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines McGuigan Shortlist Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2020 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2020 Silver
£30-£50
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Reserve Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2011 Gold
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kitterle Alsace France 2017 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Reserve Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Weingut Baron Knyphausen Erbacher Hohenrain VDP Grosse Lage GG Rheingau Germany 2019 Silver

Medium-dry (5-12 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Hunter’s Wines Hunter’s Riesling Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Imperial Riesling Palatinate Germany 2019 Silver
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Riesling Pfalz Organic Palatinate Germany 2019 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling QbA Dry
Mosel Germany 2019 Silver
£10-£15
Cono Sur Cono Sur Single Vineyard Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Cono Sur Reserva Especial Riesling Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Weingut Baron Knyphausen Riesling Charta Rheingau Germany 2018 Silver
Charles & Charles Charles & Charles Rieling Washington State USA 2018 Bronze
£15-£20
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Imperial Riesling Organic Palatinate Germany 2019 Gold
Viña Casas del Bosque Riesling Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Gold
Gatt Wines Eden Springs Eden Valley Australia 2017 Silver
£20-£30
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering Alsace France 2017 Gold
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kessler Alsace France 2017 Gold
Cembra Cantina di Montagna Vigna Cancor Trentino Italy 2017 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut August Eser Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Riesling GG
Trocken VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Gold

Medium (13-45 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Ruppertsberger Hofstück Riesling Palatinate Germany 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling
Triangle Vineyard
Beamsville Bench Canada 2017 Silver
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling
Wild Cask
Beamsville Bench Canada 2017 Silver
Viña y Bodega Estampa Inspiración Riesling Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Weingut August Eser Oestrich Lenchen Riesling
Kabinett VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Weingut Sorentberg/
Castelfeder Winery
Sorentberg Riesling Rotschiefer Mosel Germany 2018 Gold
£50+
Weingut Sorentberg/
Castelfeder Winery
Sorentberg Riesling Von 1000
Alten Reben
Mosel Germany 2017 Master

Sweet (+46 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling Kabinett
Mosel Germany 2019 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling Auslese
Mosel Germany 2018 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut August Eser Oestrich Doosberg Riesling Auslese
VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Gold
£50+
Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Riesling Icewine Niagara Peninsula Canada 2018 Master

About The Global Riesling Masters

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Riesling Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged by David Round MW, Patrick Schmitt MW and Patricia Stefanowicz MW in December at London’s 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Riesling Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

“After a glorious day of judging the Riesling Masters in 2020, it is difficult to understand what is not to love about the Riesling grape variety. This great grape shows its range of styles beautifully, far beyond its ‘homeland’ of Germany, Alsace and Austria. Dry Rieslings can sometimes appear ‘acidic’ or ‘stretched’. Not this category here. With just a tiny bit of residual sugar and ripe fruit, these wines have purity of citrus flavours, ranging from lemon-lime in the Clare Valley (Australia) through tangerine to orange zest (Eden Valley, Australia). Apple, pear, honey and minerality are more apparent in the wines from Germany or Alsace. Many of them have a lovely accent of lemon or orange blossom adding interest.”

The best wines from the Chardonnay Masters 2020

Despite being a grape that is grown in all of the globe’s major winemaking areas, our judges tasted some pleasantly surprising examples from countries less known for their Chardonnay prowess. Read on for the results in full, including top medallists from California and the Western Cape, as well as Romania and Greece.

In the many years we’ve run the Chardonnay Masters, this year’s results were the best. Such a high tally of topscoring wines is testament to better winemaking, along with an improved decision making when it comes to picking times, ensuring grapes are harvested when neither under- or over-ripe. After all, Chardonnay can, easily it seems, veer into two extremes – it can be picked early to create something that lacks the juiciness that comes with fully ripe berries, or it’s harvested late to yield a wine with high sugars, and therefore burning alcohol levels, coupled with dried fruit flavours and a lack of freshness. In between such opposites there’s quite a wide spectrum of appealing Chardonnay styles, providing diversity to the varietally defined category. Add to this the influence of source area, and you have a complex selection of wines, even though they are all made with the same grape.

Not only was the quality this year higher than ever, but the range of regions broader than in the past, with countries making delicious Chardonnays including Mexico, Turkey and Greece – none of which are traditionally associated with fine examples of the grape.

As for the overall stylistic success of the Chardonnay being made in 2020, that comes down to more than picking times. This is a grape where practices in the cellar are key to the resulting wine’s quality, expression, and overall level of interest.

This concerns techniques to augment texture and flavour in Chardonnays through lees contact and management, and oak influence, along with the common practice of malolactic conversion, which sees the tart-tasting malic acids transformed into softer lactic ones under the action of bacteria.

Not all Chardonnays that eschew this latter process are unpleasantly acidic: some that undergo it can become unpalatable if, rather than taking on a creamy taste, they develop one that’s overtly buttery.

What about oak and lees? In both cases, these should impart an additional richness to the wine’s texture, and some complementary flavours, from nuts to toast, matchstick and vanilla. The wood influence in particular should be in harmony with the base wine; it should not mask the characters of the Chardonnay, and, in general terms, a stronger, juicier wine can handle a more powerful influence from barrels – or more new oak.

Then there are the lees to consider, a byproduct of the winemaking process that can be stirred to bring a nutty richness or left undisturbed to scavenge oxygen from the wine, and bring about ‘reductive’ flavours, which can be pleasingly, gently sulphuric – like a freshly struck match – or, if not managed properly, turn nasty, adding aromas similar to rotten eggs.

TEXTURE AND FRESHNESS

In 2020 the top-scorers managed to achieve something important for Chardonnay – a wine with texture and freshness. This is a grape that’s capable of producing white wines with a certain weight, along with cleansing natural acidity.

Neither I nor my fellow tasters rated the bony samples, even if they offered high levels of refreshment. There are plenty of grapes grown worldwide that suit a linear, taut wine style. To try and create such a wine type with Chardonnay not only means missing out on its capability to turn out something more generous, but also risks disappointing the consumer, who generally opts for this grape when seeking a textural style of white (Chablis being the exception, but chosen for its unique style, which is based on this region’s site and climate specifics, rather than the base variety).

Now, let’s consider the outstanding samples. With so many Golds this year, I’ve picked out some personal favourites and unusual discoveries from the tasting, but all of those listed in the tables will satisfy the Chardonnay lover.

In the sparkling category, a mention has to go to Kent producer Gusbourne, whose blanc de blancs really was a brilliant example of pure Chardonnay traditional method fizz, with a bit more fruit than you might find in the equivalent from Champagne, such as the excellent example we had from Ayala, but with no less freshness, or biscuity complexity.

Moving on to the still wines, and dropping down to sub-£10 Chardonnay, I was delighted to taste a really delicious, fruity, gently creamy sample in the unoaked category, which hailed from Casablanca in Chile, made by Morandé.

We also tasted a rare example of an outstanding (if pricy) unoaked Chardonnay, which was the Acero – meaning ‘steel’ in Spanish – from the Marimar Estate in Russian River Valley, a property owned by Torres.

Back to sub-£10, but in the oaked sector, it turned out we had awarded Jacob’s Creek Classic Chardonnay a Gold medal, confirming this really is a great big-brand bottle of Chardonnay for a bargain price.

Moving a little further up cost-wise, but not much, was a lovely cream, cashew and peach-flavoured Chardonnay from Romania, called Sole, and made by the reliable Cramele Recas.

Between £20 and £30, judging by the number of Golds awarded, this is a sweet spot price wise for fine Chardonnay, with the standout sample coming from Tempus Two in Australia’s Hunter Valley.

But the top scorers here were mostly from Australia, or California, although there were a few rivals from rather less likely sources, such as great bottles from Mexico (Vinicola San Lorenzo), and Turkey (Chamlija). Furthermore, there was a wonderful find from Alpha Estate in Greece, which was bright, toasty, textured and affordable.

Another source of excitement in this price band was a Gold medallist from pop star Kylie Minogue. Made for her by the first-rate Howard Park in Margaret River, this was the first time Kylie’s new-launch wine had been taste tested blind against its peers. Those who are sceptical about celebrity-backed wines should be reassured – this is a great glass of Chardonnay.

Chardonnay Master: Capensis from the Western Cape

BEAUTIFUL AND TEXTURED

Over £30 and we tasted a beautiful and textured Chardonnay from Daou in Paso Robles, and a more smoky, toasty type from Marisco in Marlborough. And at the very top end, over £50, the wow factor was certainly evident, in particular among the Californian Chardonnays of Stonestreet (Alexander Valley), Marimar (Green Valley) and The Barn (Sonoma County).

My highest scorer, however, hailed from South Africa. Capensis is a relatively new top-end white from the Western Cape, made by California’s Chardonnay experts, Jackson Family Wines. It’s outstanding, mixing creamy, toasty oak, and peach and apple fruit with the perfect Chardonnay texture: it’s soft and rich as it hits the tongue, zesty and bright as it slips down the throat, with a lovely lingering note of freshly roasted nuts.

It’s not cheap, at close to £100, but when viewed relative to the price of grand cru white Burgundy, which Capensis would rival for quality, it’s doesn’t seem so expensive either.

Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

Sparkling Chardonnay

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£30-£50
Centre Vinicole –
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte
Cuvée Spéciale Blanc de Blancs Champagne France NV Silver
Centre Vinicole –
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte
Collection Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne France 2014 Silver
£50+
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs Kent UK 2015 Master
Champagne Ayala Le Blanc de Blancs Champagne France 2014 Gold

Unoaked Still Chardonnay

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Viña Morandé Morandé Estate Reserve Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Gold
Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay San Antonio Valley Chile 2019 Gold
Cramele Recas Paparuda Chardonnay Banat Romania 2019 Silver
Cramele Recas Umbrele Chardonnay Banat Romania 2019 Silver
Cramele Recas Brindle Ridge Chardonnay Banat Romania 2019 Silver
Mas la Chevalière L Chardonnay Languedoc-
Roussillon
France 2020 Silver
Vistamar Reserva Chardonnay Maule Valley Chile 2020 Silver
Mancura Etnia Chardonnay Central Valley Chile 2020 Silver
Mancura Guardian Chardonnay Maule Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Mancura Mito Chardonnay – Viognier Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Barton & Guestier B&G Réserve Chardonnay Pays d’Oc France 2019 Silver
Globus Wine King’s Parrot Chardonnay SE Australia Australia 2019 Bronze
Santa Helena Varietal Chardonnay Central Valley Chile 2020 Bronze
Vistamar Brisa Chardonnay Central Valley Chile 2020 Bronze
£10-£15
Santa Helena Santa Helena Reserva Central Valley Chile 2020 Gold
Cramele Recas Sole Chardonnay Timis Romania 2019 Gold
Maso Grener Vigna Tratta Chardonnay Trentino DOC Trentino Alto-Adige Italy 2019 Silver
Viñedos Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2020 Silver
Vignobles Bonfils Domaine de Cibadiès – West Side Languedoc Roussillon France 2020 Silver
Viña Morandé Morandé Gran Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Vistamar Gran Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Vistamar Corte de Campo Coastal White Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Yedi Bilgeler Winery Anaxagoras Denizli Turkey 2020 Silver
Yedi Bilgeler Winery Anaxagoras Denizli Turkey 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Bouchard Finlayson Sans Barrique Chardonnay Walker Bay South Africa 2018 Silver
Vinicola San Lorenzo Casa Madero Chardonnay Parras Valley Mexico 2019 Silver
Laroche L Chablis Burgundy France 2019 Silver
The Lane Vineyard The Lane Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Giusti Wine Chardonnay IGT Trevenezie Dei Carni Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Jean Leon Jean Leon 3055 Penedès Spain 2019 Silver
£50+
Viña Chocalan Chardonnay Reserva Maipo Valley Chile 2019 Gold
Marimar Estate Acero Russian River Valley USA 2018 Gold

Oaked Still Chardonnay

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Leyda Valley Chile 2020 Gold
Jacob’s Creek Jacob’s Creek Classic Chardonnay SE Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Chardonnay Oak Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
te Pa Family Vineyards Montford Estate Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Finca Albret Albret El Alba Navarra Spain 2019 Gold
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Gold
te Pa Family Vineyards Pa Road Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
L’Ecole No 41 Chardonnay Walla Walla Valley United States 2019 Gold
Doña Paula Winery Doña Paula Estate Chardonnay Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Wakefield Taylors Chardonnay Clare Valley/Padthaway Australia 2019 Silver
Glen Carlou Vineyards Glen Carlou Chardonnay Paarl-Simonsberg South Africa 2019 Silver
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Chardonnay Barossa Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Three Thieves Three Thieves Chardonnay California USA 2017 Silver
McGuigan Cellar Select Chardonnay Tumbarumba Australia 2019 Silver
Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Chardonnay Limarí Valley Chile 2020 Silver
Cavit Bottega Vinai Chardonnay Trentino DOC Trentino Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
Terrazas De Los Andes Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Chardonnay Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Nepenthe Altitude Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Bronze
£15-£20
te Pa Family Vineyards te Pa Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Santolin Wines Santolin Family Reserve Chardonnay Yarra Valley Australia 2019 Gold
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Legacy Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Domaine La Louviere La Souveraine Languedoc France 2019 Gold
Napa Cellars Napa Cellars Chardonnay California USA 2018 Gold
Bird in Hand Two in the Bush Chardonnay South Australia Australia 2019 Silver
Cavit Maso Toresella Chardonnay Trentino DOC Trentino Alto Adige Italy 2017 Silver
Matahiwi Estate Holly by Matahiwi Estate Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2019 Silver
Matahiwi Estate Holly South Series Chardonnay Wairarapa New Zealand 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards Leefield Station Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards Marea Chardonnay Leyda Valley Chile 2020 Silver
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay California USA 2018 Silver
Vignobles Bonfils Domaine de Cibadiès – Le Jardin Languedoc Roussillon France 2019 Silver
The Lane Vineyard The Lane Beginning Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
McGuigan McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Silver
Nepenthe Pinnacle Ithaca Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Silver
Tempus Two Tempus Two Copper Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay Walker Bay South Africa 2018 Bronze
Viña Aresti Trisquel Series – Vichuquén Curicó Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Bodega Los Helechos Los Helechos Chardonnay Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana Signos de Origen La Vinilla Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Joel Gott Joel Gott California Chardonnay California USA 2018 Bronze
Tempus Two Tempus Two Copper Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Tempus Two Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2018 Master
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Chardonnay South Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Vasse Felix Premier Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Gold
Uva Mira Moutain Vineyards The Mira Chardonnay Stellenbosch South Africa 2018 Gold
Cambria Estate Winery Cambria Katherine’s Chardonnay California USA 2018 Gold
Alpha Estate Ecosystem Chardonnay Single Block Tramonto Florina Greece 2018 Gold
Vinicola San Lorenzo Gran Reserva Chardonnay Parras Valley Mexico 2019 Gold
La Crema La Crema Monterey Chardonnay Monterey USA 2018 Gold
Hahn Family Wines Hahn Chardonnay Monterey USA 2018 Gold
Chamlija Felix Culpa Strandja Mountains Turkey 2019 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Jaraman Chardonnay Clare Valley & Margaret River Australia 2019 Gold
Howard Park Kylie Minogue Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2019 Gold
te Pa Family Vineyards te Pa Reserve St Leonards Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2018 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Taylor Made Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
Azienda Vinicola Castelfeder Chardonnay Riserva Burgum Novum Alto Adige Italy 2017 Silver
Miguel Torres Chile Cordillera Limarí Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Tempus Two Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Tempus Two Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
McGuigan Personal Reserve HR Chardonnay Hunter Ridge Australia 2018 Silver
Santa Rita Santa Rita Floresta Chardonnay Limarí Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley South Africa 2018 Silver
Sur Andino Altaluvia Chardonnay Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
£30-£50
Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay South Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Marisco Vineyards Craft Series The Pioneer Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2015 Gold
DAOU Family Estates DAOU Family Estates Reserve Chardonnay Willow Creek USA 2019 Gold
Penfolds Chardonnay Bin 311 SE Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Silver
Masciarelli Chardonnay Colline Teatine IGT Marina Cvetic Abruzzo Italy 2018 Silver
Chamlija Thracian Strandja Mountains Turkey 2018 Silver
Hahn Family Wines Hahn SLH Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands USA 2018 Silver
Familia Torres Sons de Prades Conca de Barberà Spain 2018 Silver
Nals Margreid Baron Salvadori Chardonnay Riserva Alto Adige Italy 2017 Silver
Penfolds Reserve Bin Chardonnay SE Australia Australia 2019 Silver
Jean Leon Jean Leon Gigi Penedès Spain 2017 Bronze
£50+
Capensis Capensis Western Cape South Africa 2016 Master
Stonestreet Winery Stonestreet Estate Chardonnay Alexander Valley USA 2016 Master
Marimar Estate Marimar La Masia Chardonnay Green Valley USA 2017 Master
Kenwood Vineyards The Barn Chardonnay Sonoma County USA 2018 Master
Tapanappa Wines Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Gold
Bird in Hand Ted South Australia Australia 2018 Gold
Uva Mira Moutain Vineyards Uva Mira Chardonnay Stellenbosch South Africa 2018 Gold
Uva Mira Moutain Vineyards The Single Tree Chardonnay Stellenbosch South Africa 2018 Gold
Terrazas De Los Andes Terrazas de los Andes Grand Chardonnay Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Gold
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay SE Australia Australia 2018 Gold
Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs Elena Saint-Emilion France 2019 Gold
Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Chardonnay Oregon USA 2016 Silver
Hahn Family Wines Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands USA 2018 Silver
Familia Torres Milmanda Conca de Barberà Spain 2017 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Chardonnay Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was held in December at 28-50 Wine Bar and Kitchen in Covent Garden, London, and was judged by David Round MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW and Patrick Schmitt MW. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Chardonnay Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The judge’s view: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

“Sparkling Chardonnays are a wonderful way to approach the day. Though a minuscule group this year, and all expensive, the wines are glorious, demonstrating that traditional method sparkling wines made exclusively from Chardonnay are both exhilarating and worthy of attention. With bright flavours, lively acidity and textured mousse, these wines are, quite frankly, a wine lover’s delight.

The unoaked Chardonnays under £10 represent good everyday drinking. A notable surprise is the consistency and ‘quaffing ability’ of the Romanian wines. Chile’s delightful entry-level offering should also not be overlooked.

At higher price brackets there are some good, even very good, examples. Above £20, however, one has to ask, ‘Why so expensive?’ One supposes that low yields, selection in the vineyard (or winery) and careful production methods are the rationale, but producing unoaked Chardonnay is actually not that difficult in most regions around the world.

Oaked Chardonnays are what consumers normally expect, and there is much available to quench one’s thirst below £15. Silver and Gold awards abound with plenty of juicy orchard fruits, lively acidity and nicely judged oak balanced beautifully.

The group at £15-20 are far more variable. There are some lovely gems with yellow plums or peaches, zippy acidity and nicely integrated oak, but there are also wines which are ‘a disappointment.’ Sometimes, it seems, the wines are simply ‘trying too hard.’

As anticipated, oaked wines at £20-30 are a significant step up, showing layers of flavours, nicely defined fruit, and zesty acidity with nuances of nuts and spices from the judicious use of oak. Australia and California perform particularly well, but there are a few hidden treasures from South Africa, Chile, Turkey and Greece. Yum, yum!

And then we find the ‘mother-load’. Oaked wines above £30 are, quite simply, sensational. There are so many wines worthy of ‘diamond-status.’ While exhibiting orchard fruit flavours and smoky-toasty-vanilla oak in abundance, these wines have great freshness of gently citrus acidity, creamy texture across the palate, and incredible layers of aromatics and flavours that linger on the finish practically forever. The ‘stars’ are New World wines from the likes of Australia, California, Oregon and South Africa with a few surprises: delicious wines from Chile, Turkey and Spain.

If there were a slightly disturbing aspect to the Chardonnay Masters this year, it may be that there were very few European wines, especially at the top levels. So, one might wonder whether a reconstruction of the ‘Judgment of Paris’ might, yet again, be in order?

In conclusion, judging these wines is always a delight and a privilege with so many ‘practically perfect in every way’ wines on offer.”

The best wines from The Tuscan Masters 2020

It may be one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, but Tuscany boasts some of the most forward-thinking winemakers out there, as our annual taste test of this Italian region proved. We bring you the medallists from 2020’s Tuscan Masters.

Old dog, new tricks: Tuscany

In the heart of the Old World there’s an ancient area of wine production that has the sheen of something modern. It’s been home to vineyards for centuries, and it’s the source of a famous, fine, and demanding grape, but it’s a region displaying a new-found dynamism, and as a result, drawing in a fresh set of drinkers. What am I referring to? Tuscany.

This part of Italy, encompassing the historic DOCGs of Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montepulciano, and bastion of the brilliant-but-troublesome Sangiovese, is on trend. It’s cool, exciting, and developing, with a contemporary image that somehow seems at odds with the venerable regions found within its boundaries. Yes, Toscana – to use the correct Italian description of the area – is sexier than the long-established DOCGs it houses. Why is that? After all, the IGT Toscana classification came into being almost 30 years ago, although the Maremma Toscana DOC was formed in 2011 for the coastal part of the region. The reason relates to the freedom IGT Toscana offers producers, and the fact that we are seeing now the high-quality results of past experimentation. The finest wines of such trials, the so-called Super Tuscans of the 1970s and ’80s, now fit within legal regulations, while we are witnessing a wave of brilliant white wines under the Toscana label, along with excellent pale rosés, similar to the pinks that are so popular from Provence.

But the classics offer thrills too. Be they Brunello or Chianti Classico, the standards are higher than ever, with the former retaining its position as one of the world’s great fine wines, and the latter re-establishing its reputation with a new top tier for the greatest expressions, called Gran Selezione.

Toscana may have a trendy ring to it, and encompass a wide range of wine styles, but its sub-regions are reliable go-tos for delicious, ageworthy drops, including the DOC Bolgheri, created in 1994.

With such a variety of DOCs and DOCGs, and a range of grapes, as well as wine styles, some quality guidance is important. This is why we launched the Tuscan Masters, to blind taste the full gamut of wines hailing from this administrative Italian region.

Before we consider the stars of 2020, it is worth nothing that the wines of this part of Italy have a distinctive stamp. Whatever the grape, and notable in the reds especially, is an appealing brightness, as fine dry tannins mix with fresh acidity, even when the wine showcases ripe, fleshy, dark berry fruit flavours.

Rising stars

One of the rising stars of this region are the white wines. Often based on Vermentino, they mix a touch of peach with notes of pink grapefruit and bitter almond to yield something gently oily and palate-cleansing. In keeping with Toscana winemakers’ tendency to play with well-known French grapes, this area can craft wonderful barrel-fermented Chardonnays, like Banfi’s Fontanelle.

Regarding the reds, it would be wrong to single out one variety or source area as being better than another, as the quality levels are high from the classic and modern, although the expressions differ. Proving the value inherent in the Sangioveses of Chianti Classico, the sole Gold medal in the £15-£20 price band this year went to this region – the producer was Contessa di Radda. Not far behind this, however, in the same price category, was a Sangiovese from the Maremma, called Pactio, and a lovely one from Montalcino made by Ciacci Piccolomini.

Between £20 and £30, it was clear that the newer blends incorporating international grapes yielded wines with different tastes but similar high standards as the classics using Sangiovese. It’s why you see Arceno’s Il Fauno gaining a Gold with a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and Lucente also picking up the same hard-to-achieve medal with a mix of Sangiovese and Merlot, while the third Gold in this price band, for Lunadoro’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, showed the brilliance of Sangiovese in this classic area of Tuscany.

Moving up to the finest wines of the day, ones at over £30, many of the top-scorers were made with the native grape of Tuscany. Be it Arceno’s brilliant, pure Sangiovese Strada al Sasso or Banfi’s always delicious Poggio alla Mura Brunello, which showed better than the same’s producer’s Summus. While the latter is a remarkable wine, because it uses Cabernet and Syrah blended with Sangiovese, despite sourcing all the grapes from Castello Banfi’s estate in Montalcino, it is a Toscana IGT – Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese.

We were also impressed by a pair of top Montepulcianos from Lunadoro, which enticed with their aromas of mandarin, cherry and cedar, and delivered so much appeal on the palate with flavours of stewed red berries, plums, and leather, along with a bright, zesty character, and fine dry tannins.

It was not until the retail price of wines surpassed the £50 barrier that we awarded our first Master. This went to Le Bolle, a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Castello Vicchiomaggio, which, once more, showed the wonderful combination of Sangiovese and the top sites of Tuscany, impressing the judges with its ripe cherry and cedar characters, and bright plummy finish.

Powerful but balanced

But, for all the excellent wines created using the native grapes of Tuscany, we had some stars with French imports, in particular Excelsus from Banfi – an expressive, creamy, powerful but balanced red using Cabernet and Merlot grown in Brunello country, even though it cannot state that on the label.

Similarly delicious was a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend called Arcanum, by Arceno, using grapes from the great southerly sites of Chianti Classico, to yield a wine with cassis, vanilla and notes of sweet balsamic and cigar box.

Therein lies the excitement of Tuscany. Just when you thought the star wines used Sangiovese from the classic areas, one comes across something remarkable using a set of grapes alien to Italy. But whether the variety is native to the region, or from outside the nation, there’s a Tuscan taste to all the wines.

That is based on something powerfully flavoured but bright, where the fruit is sweet and the tannins dry, the texture is fleshy and final impression taut. Such combinations are rare in the wine world, but prevalent in Toscana.

Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

White Unoaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Banfi La Pettegola 2019 Silver

White Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£20-£30
Banfi Fontanelle 2018 Silver

Red Unoaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Querciabella Mongrana 2017 Silver

Red Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Tenute Piccini Collezione Oro Chianti Riserva 2017 Silver
£15-£20
Agricoltori del Chianti Geografico Contessa di Radda Chianti Classico 2016 Gold
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino 2015 Silver
Fertuna Pactio 2016 Silver
Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico 2018 Silver
Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 Silver
Lunadoro Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Prugnanello 2018 Silver
Banfi Aska 2017 Bronze
Banfi Fonte alla Selva 2018 Bronze
Winemakers Club Italia at Monterinaldi RBW Chianti Classico Reserva 2016 Bronze
£20-£30
Tenuta di Arceno Il Fauno 2017 Gold
Tenuta Luce Lucente 2017 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Pagliareto 2017 Gold
Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva 2017 Silver
Rocca delle Macìe Ser Gioveto 2016 Silver
£30-£50
Tenuta di Arceno Strada al Sasso 2017 Gold
Banfi Poggio alle Mura 2015 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Gran Pagliareto 2016 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva Quercione 2016 Gold
Querciabella Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 Silver
Campo alla Sughera Arnione 2015 Silver
Banfi Summus 2016 Silver
Rocca delle Macie Sergio Zingarelli 2016 Silver
Tenuta Licinia Lucinda Riserva 2016 Silver
£50+
Castello Vicchiomaggio Le Bolle 2016 Master
Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum 2015 Gold
Banfi Excelsus 2016 Gold
Querciabella Camartina 2015 Gold
Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum Valadorna 2015 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Tuscan Wine Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel, and was judged by David Round MW, Simon Field MW and Patrick Schmitt MW. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Tuscan Wine Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The best Malbecs from the Global Masters 2020

While the South American powerhouse was rewarded in our competition, the Global Malbec Masters showed that other countries can hold their own when it comes to making exciting wines from this grape, writes Patrick Schmitt MW.

If you were in doubt as to the power of brand Malbec, then look at the range of medallists in this year’s competition. Not surprisingly Argentina dominates – this is, after all, the country that made Malbec famous. It elevated a sidelined French grape into an international superstar, but witness where it’s now grown, and the styles of wine it produces. We even tasted a ‘white Malbec’, then, as the sampling continued, tried reds from Turkey, Spain, and South Africa, all made with Malbec, despite those countries having no history of handling the grape.

This is because this variety is such a draw for wine drinkers, who love its deep colour, its fleshy dark fruit, spice, and firm tannins. It’s also one of those grapes that makes one hungry, so closely associated is Malbec with marbled red meat. Or maybe it’s the prevalence of steak that makes consumers so thirsty for Malbec? Either way, the grape is a global force, and, as a result, its supply base is expanding.

This should be good for Malbec, as new sources and techniques, as well as better examples, will retain consumer interest in this grape.

This is true too for Malbec from Argentina, where the diversity of wines from this single grape has expanded, from the rich to bright, and now from the white to the rosé and of course, near-black wines it’s famous for. Argentine Malbec has also moved with the times stylistically, as winemakers gradually show more restraint in their approaches, reducing the proportion of new oak, or picking a touch earlier for greater freshness, even though they are still crafting generous, juicy reds.

So what wowed the judges in 2020? Well, the sole white Malbec in the competition made for a novel, refreshing, inexpensive and well-made addition to the category. It was a fairly simple wine with flavours of apple and pear.

Among the reds, but sticking with the cheaper end of the tasting, it was a Malbec from South Africa that was the only sample to pick up a Gold medal for a wine under £10. Hailing from Linton Park Wine Estate in Wellington, it was loaded with black cherry and prune-like fruit, and creamy vanilla-tasting oak, impressing the judges for its quality and depth at this price level.

Further surprises came in the £10-£15 category. One of these was the quality of Malbec from Bodegas Norton that had been produced without any oak influence. Using grapes from Argentina’s Lujan de Cuyo, it was an intense red with layers of flavour from blackcurrant to plums, with fine tannins and a pleasing touch of dried herbs, and more than enough juicy fruit to make up for the lack of barrel-derived sweetness.

In the same price band, but within the oaked Malbec category, the judges were amazed to find that the sole Gold awarded was from Izmir in Turkey. Made by Yedi Bilgeler Winery, it was an intense style, with blackberry and wild cherry aromas, milk chocolate, and a fresh, plum-like finish, making for an opulent but bright style of Malbec.

Over £15, but staying below £20, and we had our first Master-winning Malbec. Given to Finca El Origen’s Gran Reserva from Uco Valley’s sought-after sub-region of Los Chacayes, it gained high scores from all the judges for its mix of creamy oak and ripe, fleshy, black fruit, and dry, cleansing tannins, all for a higher-than-average but still affordable price.

Moving beyond the £20 barrier, the Malbecs became more intense, and specialist, with a pair of outstanding single vineyard expressions from high up in the Uco Valley. Both from Trapiche, and forming part of its Terroir Series, they were equally good, with a lovely balance between fruit and oak, ripeness and freshness, while containing an appealing herbal, peppery note. However, the flavours and structure did vary, with the Orellana using grapes from the La Consulta sub-region, while the Ambrosia was made with bunches from Gualtallary. Attracting just a point score below these two was a third single vineyard expression from Trapiche, using fruit from a site called El Parel, which yielded a notably spicy style of smooth, fresh Malbec.

As for the other Gold in this price category, that hailed from Norton, and formed part of its Altura range, which, like the Trapiche wines, uses grapes from high up in the Uco Valley.

It was notable how good the blends performed this year, especially when they included Cabernet Franc, which seemed to give a fresh red-fruit character to the wines, not unlike summer pudding. Wonderful and relatively affordable Malbec blends containing this grape included Argento’s Aresano Organic sample and Aleanna’s El Enemigo – which gained a Master. Other successful complements to Malbec based on this year’s results included Tannat and Petit Verdot (Amalaya) and Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah (Domaine Bousquet).

Turning back to the issue of varietal Malbecs, we had some outstanding wines from Catena and Terrazas de los Andes in particular, with the latter picking up a Master for its Lican Parcel, which uses grapes from the Uco’s Los Chacayes, giving another endorsement for this high altitude sub-region.

But we also had a Master at this top end for a delicious Malbec from Doña Paula, capturing the quality of grapes from its Alluvia parcel of vines at 1,350m above sea level in Gualtallary in the Uco Valley.

Made in one of the coolest climates for Malbec in Argentina, this is a wine with masses of concentration, loaded with pure, intense black fruit, some bright red berries, notes of cigar box, and a tight dry tannin texture. It is an impressive, powerful red without the alcohol heat and sweetness that can beset such a wine style.

And it is another example of why Argentina is still the benchmark for varietal Malbec – it manages to pack so much colour, flavour and energy into its wines.

See the tables below for all the medallists from this year’s competition.

White Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodega Trivento Argentina Trivento Reserve White Malbec Uco Valley &
Luján de Cuyo
Argentina 2020 Bronze

Unoaked 100% Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2020 Silver
Beefsteak Club Beefsteak Club Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2020 Silver
Fecovita Botham Signature Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Bronze
Rigal Original Malbec South West France 2019 Bronze
Aldi Ireland Grapevine Malbec Uco Valley Argentina NV Bronze
£10-£15
Bodega Norton Colección Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2020 Gold
Bodega El Esteco Old Vines Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Malma Chacra La Papay Malbec Patagonia Argentina 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Bodega Krontiras Krontiras Natural Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Bronze

Oaked 100% Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Linton Park Wine Estate Linton Park Estate Malbec Wellington South Africa 2018 Gold
Finca La Celia Graffigna Malbec San Juan Argentina 2019 Silver
Indómita Irresistible Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Bodega El Esteco Don David Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega El Esteco Blend de Extremos Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Tapihue Wines Clava Reserva Valparaíso Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Santa Ema Gran Reserva Malbec Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Zorzal Vineyards & Winery Zorzal Terroir Único Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Indómita Zarper Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Malbec Reserve Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Yedi Bilgeler Winery Solon Atica Malbec İzmir Turkey 2019 Gold
Tapihue Wines Q Gran Reserva Valparaíso Chile 2018 Silver
Finca La Celia Graffigna Glorious Selection San Juan Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Trivento Argentina Private Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Trapiche Perfiles Textura Fina Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Norton Winemakers Reserve Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Argento Artesano de Argento Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Finca Ferrer Finca Ferrer Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Finca El Origen Reserva Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Terrazas de los Andes Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Luján de Cuyo
and Uco Valley
Argentina 2018 Silver
Zorzal Vineyards & Winery Zorzal Gran Terrior Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Uco Valley Estate Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Doña Paula Winery Doña Paula Estate Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Trapiche Perfiles Calcareo Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Trapiche Medalla Malbec Luján de Cuyo
and Maipu
Argentina 2017 Bronze
Mascota Vineyards Unánime Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Bronze
Fecovita Botham 79 Series Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Estate Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Malbec Los Chacayes Argentina 2018 Master
Viña Aresti Trisquel Series – Curicó Costero Curicó Valley Chile 2018 Gold
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Single Vineyard Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Gold
Finca Ferrer Colección 1310 Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Finca La Celia La Celia Elite Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Malma Family Reserve Malbec Patagonia Argentina 2018 Silver
Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Finca La Anita Finca La Anita Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Selected Vines Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Château Lagrézette Cuvée Marguerite Occitanie France 2016 Silver
Algodon Wine Estates Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2017 Silver
Mendoza Vineyards R&B Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Bronze
Mendoza Vineyards MV Gran Reserve Mendoza Argentina 2018 Bronze
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Malbec Maule Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Orellana Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Bodega Norton Altura Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Gold
Grupo Colomé Colomé Lote Especial Malbec El Arenal Salta Argentina 2018 Silver
Millaman Paya de Millaman Curicó Valley Chile 2017 Silver
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Coletto Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Bodega Norton Privada Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Argento Single Vineyard Altamira Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Alta Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas Clunia Clunia Malbec Castilla y Léon Spain 2018 Silver
Bodega Los Helechos Los Helechos Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Bodega Argento Single Block Black Mendoza Argentina 2017 Silver
Viu Manent Single Vineyard San Carlos Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Taylor Made Malbec Clare Valley Australia 2019 Bronze
£30-£50
Bodega y Viñedos Catena Catena Alta Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2016 Gold
Fincas Patagónicas–
Bodegas Tapiz
Black Tears Uco Valley Argentina 2015 Silver
Château Lagrézette Le Pigeonnier Occitanie France 2016 Silver
Doña Paula Winery Selección de Bodega Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
£50+
Terrazas de los Andes Parcel Nº 12 Licán Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Doña Paula Winery Doña Paula Parcel Alluvia Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2015 Gold
Terrazas de los Andes Grand Malbec Luján de Cuyo
and Uco Valley
Argentina 2017 Gold
Terrazas de los Andes Parcel Nº 2 Los Castaños Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Finca La Anita Magna Finca Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2017 Bronze

Unoaked Malbec Blend

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Aldi Ireland Vignobles Roussellet French Malbec Syrah Loire Valley France NV Bronze

Oaked Malbec Blend

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Viña Morandé Estate Reserve Malbec Maule Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Cono Sur Organic Malbec Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
The Show The Show Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Vistamar Vistamar Reserva Maule Valley Chile 2019 Silver
£10-£15
Bodega Argento Artesano de Argento Organic Malbec Cabernet Franc Mendoza Argentina 2019 Gold
Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
£15-£20
Aleanna El Enemigo Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Domaine Bousquet Gaia Mendoza Argentina 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Bodega Norton Lote Negro Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Gold
Domaine Bousquet Grand Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2017 Gold
Algodon Wine Estates Gran Cuvee Mendoza Argentina 2012 Gold
Bodega Amalaya Amalaya Malbec Cafayate Argentina 2019 Gold
Algodon Wine Estates Malbec Bonarda Mendoza Argentina 2014 Silver
£30-£50
Trapiche Iscay Malbec – Cabernet Franc Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Malbec Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel, and judged by Patrick Schmitt MW, David Round MW and Simon Field MW.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Malbec Master.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The best Syrahs from the 2020 Global Wine Masters

A more affordable rival to ‘king’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah should not be discounted when it comes to top-quality red wine, and there are an increasing number of countries making excellent expressions, writes Patrick Schmitt MW.

There was an element of surprise from the judges as we concluded this year’s Global Syrah Masters, and it concerned both the quality and style of entries – the wines were not only better than expected, but also more balanced.

This exposed an issue of image for this noble variety – it is not considered as great as say, king of grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, nor as refined stylistically. But, as the results of our 2020 competition showed, Syrah, even as a varietal wine, can yield something fine, and with finesse. Its hallmarks may differ from Cabernet, but it can attain the same high standard. And, thrillingly, it can take on a range of characteristics depending on where its grown, although it favours granitic soils and warm so-called Mediterranean climes, even though cooler-climate Syrah is in vogue.

In short, Syrah can, on its own, produce wines that are complete. At entry-level prices, it can be fresh, fruity and pleasing. Move up to something more expensive, and it can be juicy, spicy, and structured, carrying new oak influence with ease. And when it comes to fine wine territory, Syrah can be hedonistic, age-worthy, layered and refreshing. Plus, the sources of greatness are expanding beyond the two famous outposts of top Syrah, which are the northern Rhône, above all Hermitage, and south Australia, particularly the Barossa Valley.

So where did we find brilliance in 2020? It depends on the level you are considering, but one thing we picked up on this year is Syrah’s ability to deliver good wines at bargain prices – with two Gold medals awarded for wines under £10. One of these hailed from De Bortoli Wines in Australia – which, as a country well practised at making inexpensive Shiraz, should provide no shock – but the other was more astonishing, with a wonderfully bright, fleshy Syrah coming from Banat in Romania, made by the impressive Cramele Recas.

Over £10, however, and the number of Golds were numerous, and over £20 we had 10 Masters – these are only awarded to outstanding examples of their type. With so many standout wines, it’s best to see the producers and sources in the tables, but for me, there were a few wines worth mentioning in particular.

Among these were a couple from Chile, a country that I believe is brilliantly suited to Syrah, a view now supported by three Gold medals in this blind tasting against more conventional sources of this grape. One was the affordable, structured, gently pepper and blackcurrant-scented sample from Cono Sur, under its 20 Barrels brand, and using grapes from the northern coastal area of Limarí. high-level reds Another was also from Limarí, this time with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Made by Sutil, this is, in my view, one of Chile’s best value high-level reds, and a benchmark for sub-£20 Syrah.

A final exciting fine wine find is called Pangea, hailing from Colchagua, home to so much great Carmenère, and using Ventisquero’s vineyards in the Apalta sub-region, now a DO in its own right. This was a taut but powerful style of Syrah that was enticing now and, even though it was from the 2014 vintage, it clearly has many years ahead of it. Such quality is perhaps not amazing when one learns that John Duval is the winemaking consultant – the man who used to make Penfolds Grange.

Outside of Chile, Australia shone. Be it Adelaide, Barossa, Clare or McLaren Vale, we had Master-winning Syrahs, with notably good samples from, to deal with these regions in turn, Bird in Hand, Château Tanunda, Wakefield/Taylors and Hickinbotham.

Finally, a couple of further countries should be mentioned here. One of these is New Zealand, where Hawke’s Bay has proved a relatively new source of first-rate Syrah, in a pleasingly peppery mould, with Church Road and Elephant Hill two producers of note.

The other is Argentina, where it appears possible to produce great results, with masses of colour and spice, similar in that regard to Malbec, which, of course, the country is far better known for.

So, look through the results and take your pick to enjoy the established, and explore the newer sources of excellent Syrah, safe in the knowledge it’s been quality assessed in a blind tasting by professionals. Also, please bear in mind when considering fine wine options that there’s more on offer than Bordeaux blends when it comes to great, powerful, long-lived reds. Syrah is a reliable provider of serious wines. Not only that, but a good-value choice, even at its uppermost prices.

See the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

Unoaked 100% Syrah

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Aldi Ireland Exquisite Collection South Australia Shiraz South Australia Australia 2018 Silver
Aldi Ireland Grapevine Shiraz Jumilla Spain NV Silver
Cramele Recas Dragon Hills Syrah Banat Romania 2019 Silver

Oaked 100% Syrah

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
De Bortoli Wines DB Winemaker Selection Shiraz SE Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Cramele Recas Regno Recas Syrah Banat Romania 2019 Gold
De Bortoli Wines Woodfired Shiraz Heathcote Australia 2018 Silver
Siegel Family Wines Siegel Gran Reserva Syrah Colchagua Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
De Bortoli Wines De Bortoli Regional Reserve Shiraz Heathcote Australia 2018 Bronze
£10-£15
Langmeil Winery M&S Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Barossa Valley Australia 2019 Gold
De Bortoli Wines Deen Vat 8 Shiraz Heathcote & Hilltops Australia 2018 Gold
De Bortoli Wines Rutherglen Estate Shiraz Rutherglen Australia 2018 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Hotelier Shiraz Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
De Bortoli Wines Regional Classic Gunagai Shiraz Gundagai Australia 2018 Silver
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Syrah Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Valdivieso Valley Selection Colchagua V Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Carmen Carmen Gran Reserva Syrah Colchagua V Chile 2018 Silver
Cramele Recas Selene Syrah Banat Romania 2019 Silver
Invivo & Co Graham Norton’s Own Shiraz South Australia Australia 2017 Bronze
£15-£20
Gemtree Wines Uncut Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Gold
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Syrah Limarí Valley Chile 2018 Gold
Bosco del Merlo Syrah Seduzione Veneto Italy 2017 Gold
Pyros Wines Pyros Appellation Syrah San Juan Argentina 2018 Gold
Bird In Hand Wines Two in the Bush Shiraz Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Gold
Valdivieso Single Vineyard Limarí Valley Chile 2018 Gold
Langmeil Winery Long Mile Shiraz Barossa Australia 2019 Gold
Schild Estate Wines Barossa Valley Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Silver
Saronsberg Cellar Saronsberg Provenance Shiraz Western Cape South Africa 2018 Silver
Viña Los Boldos Château Los Boldos Vieilles Vignes Cachapoal Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Ventisquero Kalfu Sumpai Leyda Chile 2017 Silver
Alpha Estate Syrah Single Vineyard Turtles Florina Greece 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Saronsberg Cellar Saronsberg Shiraz Western Cape South Africa 2018 Master
Langmeil Winery Valley Floor Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Master
Schild Estate Wines Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2017 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Aldi Special Release Shiraz Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Heritage Shiraz Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Pirathon Wines Pirathon Blue Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Gold
RockBare RockBare Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2017 Gold
Valdivieso Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limarí Limarí Valley Chile 2015 Gold
Bird In Hand Wines Bird in Hand Syrah Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Gold
Bird In Hand Wines Bird in Hand Shiraz Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Silver
Te Awanga Estate Quarter Acre Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018 Silver
£30-£50
Château Tanunda 50 Year Old Vines Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2017 Master
Gemtree Wines Ernest Allan Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Gold
Pirathon Wines Pirathon Silver Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Elephant Hill Stone Syrah Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018 Gold
Jackson Family Wines Yangarra Estate Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2017 Gold
Gatt Wines Gatt Wines Barossa Valley Australia 2015 Gold
Langmeil Winery Orphan Bank Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Langmeil Winery Hallowed Ground Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Ventisquero Pangea Colchagua Valley Chile 2014 Gold
Gatt Wines Gatt Wines Eden Valley Australia 2015 Silver
£50+
Château Tanunda 100 Year Old Vines Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2017 Master
Wakefield/Taylors Wines The Pioneer Shiraz Clare Valley Australia 2016 Master
Bird In Hand Wines Mac Shiraz Adelaide Hills Australia 2013 Master
Jackson Family Wines Hickinbotham Brooks Road McLaren Vale Australia 2017 Master
Gatt Wines Single Vineyard Old Vine Barossa Valley Australia 2015 Master
Bird In Hand Wines Nest Egg Shiraz Adelaide Hills Australia 2015 Gold
Bird In Hand Wines Nest Egg Shiraz Adelaide Hills Australia 2014 Gold
Church Road Church Road 1 Syrah Hawkes Bay New Zealand 2017 Gold
Kurt Angerer RedGranite Kamptal Austria 2015 Gold
Langmeil Winery Pure Eden Shiraz Eden Valley Australia 2018 Gold

Unoaked Blend (minimum 50% Syrah)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Aldi Ireland Kooliburra Australian Reserve Shiraz South Australia Australia 2018 Bronze
Aldi Ireland Kooliburra Australian Shiraz Cabernet SE Australia Australia 2018 Bronze

Oaked Blend (minimum 50% Syrah)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Trentham Estate Hope Shiraz Reserve SE Australia Australia 2019 Silver
£10-£15
Barton & Guestier Héritage No. 294 Rhône France 2018 Gold
De Bortoli Wines Rutherglen Estate Red Shiraz Durif Rutherglen Australia 2018 Gold
Viña Los Boldos Château Los Boldos Grande Réserve Cachapoal Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Syrah Maule Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Le Nez Français Classique Rouge Pays d’Oc France 2019 Silver
Santa Rita Medalla Real Syrah Limarí Valley Chile 2018 Silver
McPherson Wines MWC Shiraz Mourvedre Central Victoria Australia 2018 Silver
£15-£20
Viña Sutil Limited Release Syrah Limarí Valley Chile 2018 Gold
Church Road McDonald Series Syrah Hawkes Bay New Zealand 2019 Gold
Trullo Flaminio Syne Puglia Italy 2018 Silver
Mancura Mancura Leyenda Casablanca Valley Chile 2017 Silver
Alpha Estate Axia Florina Greece 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Saronsberg Cellar Saronsberg Full Circle Western Cape South Africa 2018 Master
Berton Vineyards Bonsai Shiraz Eden Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Elephant Hill Estate Syrah Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018 Silver
Church Road Grand Reserve Syrah Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018 Silver
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Reserve Shiraz Okanagan Valley Canada 2017 Silver
Alpha Estate S.M.X. Florina Greece 2017 Silver
£30-£50
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Terroir Collection Border Vista Syrah Okanagan Valley Canada 2017 Master
£50+
Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2018 Gold
Viña Casas del Bosque La Trampa Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Syrah Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world. The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel.

The judges were Andrea Briccarello, Patrick Schmitt MW, and Patricia Stefanowicz MW.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Syrah Master.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

Patricia Stefanowicz MW tasting with Patrick Schmitt MW

Judging the Syrah Masters is an event not to be missed. Each year seems to surpass the previous one in terms of quality and diversity. The 2020 Syrah Masters is no exception. The phenomenal number of wines receiving Silver, Gold and Master awards is to be celebrated.

In 2020, as often the case, the Australian Shiraz wines reached soaring heights. While keeping all that lovely blueberry, blackberry and black pepper, elegance seems to be on the rise, with delicious freshness and supple tannins in exquisite balance with concentrated flavour and integration of slightly less oak. Fine wines can be found everywhere, whether juicy Barossa, stylish South Australia or leathery Hunter.

Hawkes Bay in New Zealand demonstrates just how suited the region is for Syrah, with the wines showing distinctive blackberry and morello cherry fruit, and nicely judged oak, elegance and persistence.

It is fantastic to see Chile becoming better at producing juicy, lively versions of Syrah with subtle wood in support, and with less evidence of capisicum and peppermint.

Much further north, the Syrah wines of the Okanagan Valley are lovely: vibrant blackfruits and chocolate oak notes framed by zippy acidity and silky tannins.

There were some delightful surprises from Romania and at very affordable prices; these wines are perfect for everyday drinking.

At stratospheric price levels many of the wines were stunningly delicious, with great fruit, appropriate oak accents, lively acidity and velvet-textured tannins. It was almost impossible not to award Golds and Masters to these wines, and a few were ‘practically perfect in every way’.

The best Riojas from the Wine Masters on sale in 2020

With the judging now finished for this year’s Rioja Masters we can bring you the results in full, listing all the medallists, and drawing attention to the best Riojas on sale in 2020, whatever the style and category.

There’s a place in the wine world that’s proving particularly resilient in its popularity. Unlike the rise and fall of many a mainstream vinous source, from Chianti to claret, California rosé to German Riesling, the demand for Rioja, particularly in its reserva form, just won’t die down, despite its near ubiquitous state. Rather, it’s still a growing category, spearheaded by many strong brands, from Campo Viejo and Marqués de Cáceres to Faustino and Riscal. After years of chairing our annual Rioja Masters, and confirmed in particular this year, I think I know the reason for such enduring appeal. It’s primarily a question of style and value.

You see, Rioja has this appealing character of being juicy, oaky, and fresh. It has ripe cherry fruit from the Tempranillo and Garnacha that dominate its blends, vanilla and chocolate from the oak barrels used in its maturation, and a bright acidity from the cool nights in this relatively high-altitude continental region – vineyards are generally between 300m and 500m above sea level, but they can reach up to 800m or more. Then there’s the price charged for a taste of this likeable mix. Rioja is relatively affordable. You don’t have to stray much over £20 for brilliance. There’s also plenty of good quality, juicy quaffing reds below £10 too. And between these two price points, Rioja consistently delivers something that has a draw.

Such widespread adoration for the region’s produce does create one problem for Rioja, albeit a minor one, and that concerns its image among fine wine collectors – the people who happily regularly spend sums in excess of £100 on Bordeaux or Burgundy don’t seem to snap up Rioja. In my view, they are missing out. The greatest expressions from this region are delicious, ageworthy, and unique. Plus, unlike most great wines, Rioja’s finest bottles are often released when they are ready to drink.

Among the classifications, which are increasingly numerous, it is the reserva age statement, with its minimum of 12 months in oak, that offers the biggest bang per buck. It seems this period of time delivers the right amount of barrel-sourced vanillin and tannin to suit the fleshy red berry fruit of Rioja. It’s a bit like adding a desirable amount of cream to your strawberries – of course tastes differ, but you want something that improves the base ingredient, not smothers it. Having said that, there are plenty of lightly-oaked crianzas that are delicious, as well as joven wines from Rioja that give one a chance to indulge in the fresh berry flavours of this region, undiluted, and in a wonderful youthful state.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, gran reserva Riojas should be celebrated for offering the drinker something rare and historic in the wine world – a drop that’s fully mature on its release, and sometimes pleasingly light and fresh, despite having powerful flavours.

Finally, we have, among the reds, the eclectic wonders of the ‘vinos de autor’ category, a place for experimental and ambitious winemaking. If you love reds with weight, oak influence, and elegance, then look out for this classification, where you generally have a wine style that’s a bit bigger in all areas, be it texture, wood flavours, or fruit ripeness. These can be great wines, and should be judged according to how well they compare relative to the world of powerful wines, rather than Rioja. So often they do admirably on this front, but can fail if you were expecting something with the light, spicy lift of a traditional Rioja.

Rioja is a rare place in the world of wine. Not just because it offers fully ripe wines with a fresh acidity, but because it boasts a broad sweep of wine styles. Such complexity adds interest. Meanwhile, strong brands take away the risk that comes with drinkers experimenting.

In any case, the quality standard that comes with the Rioja tag is high. Of all our tastings, the Rioja Masters generally sees us award the highest number of Golds relative to the quantity of entries, and, I should add, the fewest Bronzes or lower. There’s a reason why Rioja’s appeal endures. As noted above, it relates to style and quality. But as the diversity of Rioja character seen in our Masters shows too, it’s also an issue of choice. This Spanish region now makes a wine to sate all tastes – even those of the aforementioned fine wine collectors, who should have no trouble finding what they want, whether it’s among the concentrated wines of Rioja’s vinos de autor, or the aged elegance of the gran reservas. And it’s high time they started their search.

For now, see the tables below, which illustrate the range on offer in Rioja today, and the highlights from the two days of judging the competition.

White Rioja Joven

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodegas Campo Viejo Viura-Tempranillo Blanco 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Pomal Viura Malvasía 2019 Silver
Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2019 Bronze

White Rioja Reserva

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Eguren Ugarte Reserva 2017 Bronze
£30-£50
Rioja Vega Tempranillo Blanco Reserva 2017 Gold

White Rioja Vinos de Autor

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Rioja Vega Blanco Colección Tempranillo 2019 Silver
£15-£20
Bodegas Ortega Ezquerro Don Quintín Ortega White BF 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Remírez de Ganuza Remírez de Ganuza 2016 Silver

Red Joven

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodegas Campo Viejo Campo Viejo Garnacha 2019 Silver
Fincas de Azabache Tunante 2019 Silver
Rioja Vega Rioja Vega 2019 Silver
Bodegas Campo Viejo Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2018 Bronze
Bodegas Ugalde Ugalde Tempranillo 2019 Bronze
Bodegas Solar Viejo Solar Viejo Tempranillo 2019 Bronze

Red Crianza

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodegas Faustino Faustino Crianzo ITNOW 2017 Silver
Zinio Bodegas Sancho Garcés Crianza 2017 Bronze
£10-£15
Fincas de Azabache Azabache Crianza Vendimia Seleccionada 2017 Silver
Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Crianza 2018 Silver
Rioja Vega Edición Limitada 2017 Silver
Bodegas Solar Viejo Solar Viejo Crianza 2017 Silver
Bodegas Valoria Viña Valoria Crianza 2016 Silver
Compañia de Vinos Heraclio Heraclio Alfaro 2017 Silver
Bodegas Ugalde Ugalde Crianza 2016 Bronze
£15-£20
Bodegas Solar Viejo Orube Crianza 2017 Gold
Fincas de Azabache Crianza Garnacha 2018 Gold
Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Cuvée 2017 Gold
Hermanos Frias del Val Crianza 2016 Silver
Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Crianza 2018 Bronze
Zinio Bodegas Zinio Crianza Vendimia Seleccionada 2016 Bronze
£20-£30
Fincas de Azabache Culto 2017 Silver

Red Reserva

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
Under £10
Muriel Wines Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2016 Gold
Bodegas la Eralta Señorío de La Eralta 2016 Silver
£10-£15
Bodegas Solar Viejo Solar Viejo Reserva 2014 Gold
Bodegas Valoria Viña Valoria Reserva 2014 Gold
Bodegas Campo Viejo Campo Viejo Reserva 2015 Silver
Bodegas Ugalde Ugalde Reserva 2015 Silver
Bodegas Faustino Reserva ITNOW 2015 Silver
Bodegas Faustino Art Collection Reserva 2015 Silver
Bodegas Faustino V Reserva 2015 Bronze
Bodegas y Viñedos Leza Leza García Reserva 2016 Bronze
£15-£20
Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Reserva de Familia 2017 Gold
Rioja Vega Rioja Vega Reserva 2015 Gold
Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Pomal Reserva 2015 Silver
Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres Reserva 2015 Silver
Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2017 Silver
Bodegas Riojanas Borisa 125 Reserva 2017 Silver
Eguren Ugarte Reserva 2014 Silver
Bodegas Ortega Ezquerro Ortega Ezquerro Reserva 2014 Silver
Zinio Bodegas Sancho Garcés Reserva 2015 Bronze
£20-£30
Zinio Bodegas Zinio Reserva 2016 Gold
£30-£50
Remírez de Ganuza Viña Coqueta 2009 Gold
Remírez de Ganuza Fincas de Ganuza 2014 Gold
Bodegas Faustino Icon Edition Especial Selección 2015 Gold
£50+
Remírez de Ganuza Remírez de Ganuza 2006 Master

Red Gran Reserva

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
Under £10-£15
Bodegas la Eralta Señorío de La Eralta 2014 Gold
£15-£20
Bodegas Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2013 Silver
Bodegas Ugalde Gran Reserva 2013 Silver
Bodegas Faustino Faustino I Gran Reserva 2010 Bronze
Bodegas Faustino Faustino I Gran Reserva ITNOW 2010 Bronze
£20-£30
Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva 2013 Gold
Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Gran Reserva 2013 Gold
Rioja Vega Gran Reserva 2013 Gold
Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Pomal Gran Reserva 2012 Silver
£30-£50
Bodegas Campillo Campillo 57 Gran Reserva 2012 Master
£50+
Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva 1978 Gold

Red Vinos de Autor

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Rioja Vega Tinto Colección Tempranillo 2018 Gold
£15-£20
Viñas Leizaola Caminos de Sacramento 2018 Gold
Bodegas Solar Viejo Orube Garnacha 2018 Silver
Bodegas Ortega Ezquerro OE Garnacha 2018 Silver
£20-£30
Bodegas Solar Viejo Orube Selección de Familia 2017 Master
Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres Generación MC 2018 Gold
Hermanos Frías del Val Selección Personal Premium 2016 Gold
Bodegas Campo Viejo Dominio de Campo Viejo 2016 Silver
£30-£50
Viñas Leizaola El Sacramento 2016 Gold
Rioja Vega Rioja Vega Venta Jalón 2014 Gold
Bodegas Ysios Ysios 2015 Silver

Red Organic

Company Wine Name Vintage Medal
£50+
MacRobert & Canals Barranco Del San Ginés 2016 Gold

Judges’ comments

Andrea Briccarello: “Rioja is still a strong brand in the UK, and I could see why during the tasting; the region offers great value for money, particularly the joven and crianza wines. I have a soft spot for white Rioja, so I really enjoyed the vinos de autor part of the tasting. “The crianzas and reservas were stunning, especially in the £10-1£5 range, with plenty of fresh, vibrant juicy red-fruit notes and spicy undertones, offering a lot of value. “There is much to like when it comes to Rioja; it all comes to style, more traditional or more modern, young and juicy (joven or crianza) or leather and tobacco (reserva or gran reserva). “The biggest surprise was the quality of these wines; which had hardly any faults. There were plenty of great wines that delivered in every glass.”

Patricia Stefanowicz MW: “The 2020 Rioja Masters was exemplary, and the wines demonstrate yet again why Rioja is well respected for quality, reliability and value. There are excellent wines in every category, from joven through crianza to reserva and gran reserva. The white wines showed well, and the vinos de autor expressed experimentation and excitement with a masterful touch. The judges awarded every wine in the tasting with a medal, perhaps a first? “The reds showed bright acidity and judiciously managed tannins throughout the different categories. The white Riojas exhibited lovely orchard fruits, purity of flavour and racy acidity in balance. “One or two reservas were serious wines with balanced acidity and lovely oak integration.”

About the competition

The Rioja Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Masters series for grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as other regions such as Tuscany and Champagne, along with styles from rosé to sparkling. The competition is exclusively for Rioja wine, and the entries were judged using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Rioja Master. The entries were judged on 9 and 10 November at the Novotel, London Bridge.

The judges in The Rioja Masters 2020 were Andrea Briccarello, David Round MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW and Patrick Schmitt MW

This report features the medal-winners only. Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The Cabernet Sauvignon Masters – Asia 2020 results

While Australia and Chile are well known for the quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon, other countries are snapping at their heels, with China and Israel in particular impressing in our annual blind-tasting competition, writes Alice Liang.

Robust yet approachable, Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a staple in consumers’ cellars. “In Hong Kong, Cabernet Sauvignon has become a brand name for people to go after,” said judge Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wine. “Most of them encountered the grape variety because of Bordeaux, but thankfully, after getting on with the first growths, they are willing to explore the same variety made in other regions.”

The dbAsia Cabernet Sauvignon Masters brought together entries of 100% Cabs along with blends made up of at least 50% of the grape variety from popular New World countries, such as Australia and Chile, to up-and-coming gems, namely from China and Israel. The panel was able to explore the potential that the grape variety can offer.

As one of the world’s biggest producers of Cabernet, Australia showed how good it is as a producer. Penfolds, the powerhouse of Australian wine, achieved a Master with its exceptional Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017.

The Cabernet-dominant blend impressed independent wine educator Rebecca Leung with its “supple concentration of vibrant fruit and floral flavours”. Leung said the wine was ready to enjoy now.

The panel also raved about the wines from Wakefield Taylors. Priced under HK$100, both Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon won Gold as they proved to be outstanding value for money.

According to Derek Li, Group Sommelier at JIA Group, the former has a “juicy and firm tannin structure topped with mint and herbal notes”, while the latter offers “an intense fruit flavour with a hint of cedar wood”.

Moving upscale, the winery’s costlier wines were awarded Silver medals. Hugo Poon, head of sourcing at Quintessentially, said: “The Wakefield Taylors St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (HK$250) boasts an impressive iintensity. The acidity integrates with the sweetness perfectly. Meanwhile, in Wakefield Taylors’ The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, I spotted rich scents of coffee, vanilla and cherry with a nice finish.”

Chile is another country well known for good-value Cabernets. A couple of New World Cab stars are produced in Central Valley regions such as the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley. In our competition, Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, costing less than HK$100, took home a Gold medal. Li said:

“The wine exudes rich and intense flavours of plum, violet, nutmeg and cinnamon. This is an easygoing wine that I find very enjoyable.” Meanwhile, Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda 2015, a Cabernet blended with Carmènere, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, was awarded a Silver medal in the competition.

Other hightlights in the competition included Silver medallists Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2019. Both wines are good value, having a price tag of less than HK$100, showing the value of Chilean Cabernets.

As an emerging wine-producing country, China shone in the competition by showcasing the graceful development of its wines. Hailing from Tianjin, Dynasty Fine Wines received Silver and Bronze medals respectively for its Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 and Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia 2010 respectively.

Carrying a price tag of HK$301 and above, the panel preferred the former as “it offers a lot of tertiary notes such as espresso coffee, caramel, toffee, and dried plums, while being powerful in style,” said Ochoco.

The Upper Galilee region in Israel has started to gain a good reputation for the wines produced there. Situated at a high altitude, Barkan Vineyards is located in the cooler northern part of the region. The high performer stood out in the competition by winning two Gold medals. Named according to the height at which the grapes are grown, The Altitude Series achieved recognition from the panel.

In particular, Gold medallist Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 delivered “a fantastic body and richness,” according to Vincent Chue, beverage director at Tapa Room. He added: “The use of oak is apparent, but it is well balanced, and shows high drinkability.” Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore 2016, which also won a Gold medal, showed a totally different profile. Li said: “The wine is pleasing and elegant. I am attracted to the intense characters of cassis, roasted coffee beans and nutmeg.”

Unoaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
V.E.S.A. Birds of Paradise Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vinedos Emiliana O Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
V.E.S.A. Gamma Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze

Oaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Taylors Taylors Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Taylors Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Viña Carmen Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vinedos Emiliana Indigo Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Tempus Two Pewter Series Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Silver
Vina San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Santa Rita Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Nepenthe Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2017 Bronze
McGuigan The Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$300
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Gold
Allegiance Wines The Artisan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2014 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 585 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 720 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Etiqueta Negra Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$301 – HK$400
Dynasty Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia Tianjin China 2010 Bronze
HK$401 – HK$800
Dynasty Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Tianjin China 2008 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield ‘The Visionary’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Silver
Allegiance Wines Unity’ Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2015 Bronze

Oaked – Blend

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Chile 2018 Gold
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon- Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Viña Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
Taylors Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Bronze
Vina Chocalan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro PeRRRfect Red Blend Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Vina Chocolan Gran Reserva Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Viña Carmen Carmen Delanz Alto Jahuel Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$350
Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda Colchagua Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal El Principal Metropolitana Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal Memorias Metropolitana Chile 2016 Bronze
HK$351 – HK$500
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz Barossa Val Australia 2017 Master
Barkan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore Galilee Israel 2016 Gold

The Sparkling Masters – Asia 2020 results

Sparkling wine, in all its forms, is amazingly popular. In our annual blind tasting, we look at fizzes from all over the world, and discover some gems, occasionally from surprising locations. By Alice Liang.

The year-round popularity of sparkling wine has never subsided. The editorial team of drinks business Asia gathered with a panel of judges, comprising wine professionals from different sectors in Hong Kong, to give a verdict on flights of the versatile wine in various expressions, including Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.

When seeking out a good sparkling wine, acidity is always the key to upholding the freshness and structure. A flabby sparkling wine tastes like an alcoholic fizzy drink, or even worse, a soda water, as Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and independent wine judge, said during the judging process.

Champagne, a synonym for celebration, has been facing a tough time during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for the reigning king of sparkling, the quality of the wine held its own in the competition. Champagne Castelnau was founded 1916 and underwent a rebranding in 2017.

Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve – the flagship wine of the house – took home a Master, thanks to panel being impressed by its “mesmerising” character. Shieh said: “It is so fresh and lean, with attractive brioche notes. It benefitted from lees contact, as the tension is well delivered.”

And Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006, the vintage expression of the house, won a Gold medal. As Anty Fung, wine specialist and manager of Hip Cellar, noted: “It is another vinous example with lots of autolytic character, grip and acidity that lingers.” Both wines are priced between HK$400-HK$800, meaning they offer exceptional value.

English fizz has been attracting attention from professionals. The emerging category has even been spoken of as ‘the new Champagne’. Catching up with the Champagne, it was Gusbourne from Kent that shone from this sector.

Made from a blend of estate-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Gusbourne Estate Rosé 2015 was another Gold winner, with a price tag in the HK$300-HK$500 band. Fung said: “I can taste the fresh red fruit quality wrapped in a Comte cheese rind. The sparkling wine has good length and balance, and is a great example of what a rosé sparkling wine should be.”

Meanwhile, the layered and balanced profile of Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2014, predominantly made with Chardonnay from a Burgundian clone, caught the eye of Eva Ma, senior marketing executive of EMW Fine Wines, who said: “The wine illustrates a New World-style méthode traditionnelle; it is slightly oaky but well integrated.” The wine was awarded a Silver medal.

Looking at the Bronze winners, we saw the presence of organic sparkling production, which is also growing strong around the world. Emiliana, the Chilean winery from the Central Valley, is one of the dedicated vineyards practising organic and biodynamic agriculture in the country; its Etnico Sparkling Wine NV “exudes a lovely white floral and lychee scent with lean structure” commented Ma.

Moving back to the Old World, Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva NV is an organic Cava that showed a high price- to-quality ratio. Shieh described the fizz as: “Bubbly and zesty, the wine is brilliant for the price.” It is worth mentioning that both wines bear a favourable price point between HK$100 and HK$200.

The panel tasted a variety of sparklers from around the world, including Joseph Vallet Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut from Bourgogne, Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine from China and Andreola Mas de Fer Rive di Soligo, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG 2018 from Italy. The tasting proved that no matter where in the world you look, there is something sparkling being made that will appeal to the most discerning of consumers.

White Sparkling Brut

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
$100-1500HKD
Dynasty Wines Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine Tianjin China NV Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana Etnico Sparkling Wine Casablanca Valley Chile NV Bronze
Domaine Pierre Labet Joseph Vallet Cuvée Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut Bourgogne France NV Bronze
$200-300HKD
Azienda Agricola Andreola Mas De Fer Rive Di Soligo Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
$400-800HKD
Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve Champagne France NV Master
Champagne Castelnau Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006 Champagne France 2006 Gold
Champagne Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2006 Champagne France 2006 Silver
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs Kent UK 2014 Silver
Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve Kent UK 2015 Bronze

Rosé Sparkling Brut

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
$100-150HKD
Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva Cava Spain NV Bronze
$300-500HKD
Gusbourne Estate Rosé Kent UK 2015 Gold
Champagne Castelnau Rosé Champagne France NV Silver

Grenache Masters 2019: the results in full

The inaugural Global Grenache Masters showed that this undervalued grape is capable of producing great wines at keen prices, particularly in the Rhône and Rioja, along with Priorat and the Barossa.

IF YOU were in any doubt as to the versatility, or quality of Grenache, then the drinks business’s first tasting competition devoted entirely to this grape should conclusively alter your view. Not only did we have a broad range of styles – red, white, rosé, even sparkling – but an extensive sweep of prices, from the sub £10 unoaked sample to £50-plus fine wines. As for the quality element, Grenache proved it can, in the words of fellow judge Jonathan Pedley MW, “stand shoulder to shoulder with the other ‘first division’ black grape varieties.”

So why did we launch a Global Masters for Grenache? It’s primarily because we at db have a fondness for the grape and don’t believe it receives the recognition it deserves. If one considers all the column inches that are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot, Syrah or Malbec, then Grenache – as far as globally planted grapes go – is comparatively underrated and overlooked.

CAPABLE OF GREATNESS
And it does do a number of things very well. One of those is inexpensive wine – Grenache makes a brilliant soft and ripe ‘house’ red (unlike inexpensive Pinot – a grape that has parallels with Grenache – which rarely produces appealing modestly priced wine). It’s also a variety that’s capable of greatness – Grenache can make wines of immense complexity, with a great ability to age, and, importantly, ones with a combination of powerful flavours and a light body.

Then there’s its disease resistance – Grenache is impressively impervious to wood diseases, hence the amazing stock of old vines, which us wine lovers can help protect by raising the grape’s popularity.

Grenache is also a grape of surprising versatility – it’s great for rosé and fortified wine, while it’s also a variety that can withstand heat extremes in the vineyard, an important trait if some climate change predictions come true.

The judge’s view: Jonathan Pedley MW

The tasting showed that while Grenache does have traits that give rise to some caricatures, from a quality perspective it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other first-division black grape varieties. I also think that the tasting showed definitively that Grenache can make damn good wines both on its own or in a blend. I guess that the latter has never been in doubt, but in this tasting we saw unblended wines that were complete in every way. A straight Grenache will always tend to be relatively high in alcohol, low in acidity, not particularly deep in colour and have a ripe fruit character more in the red rather than the black spectrum. Further, the tannins will usually be supple and approachable, rather than tough and severe. However, none of these characteristics prevents a varietal Grenache from showing wonderful complexity and achieving seamless harmony in the bottle.

As for styles, it was good to see a broad cross section of styles among the red wines. At one end of the scale we had some classic ‘big hairy monsters’, while at the other extreme were some fragrant, perfumed, and, dare one say it, almost pretty, wines.

I have always felt that the structure of Grenache is ideally suited to producing wines that are not just approachable when they are young but are actually a pleasure to drink (in stark contrast to grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon). What is more, given that Grenache grew in places that were not highly thought of in the past (Soledad, Languedoc, Aragón), good examples have always represented excellent value for money. The tasting confirmed this supposition, with a couple of Golds going to wines in the £10-£15 bracket.

It is also widely planted, although it’s suffering declines in the extent of its reach. In 1990, Grenache was the world’s most planted red grape, but now you’ll find more Cabernet, Merlot and Tempranillo in the ground.

As for our conclusions from a day spent assessing wines made from the grape, much of what we had thought was borne out by this competition.

To focus on the reds, it was clear that the structure of Grenache is well suited to producing wines that are a pleasure to drink when they are young, and unadorned by expensive winemaking techniques employing barriques. By way of example, we awarded a Gold to a sub-£10 Grenache blend from Terroir Daronton in the Rhône for being a lovely glass of red for the price, with plenty of ripe red fruit and a soft, as well as refreshing finish.

For just a touch more cash there were some delightful reds from Spain in the £10-£15 category of wines. In particular, we were impressed by a fleshy, medium-weight sample from Rioja employing old bush vine Garnacha. It gained a Gold, as did another one with similar traits, this time from nearby Aragón, the Spanish wine region widely considered to be the native home of this grape.

Further up the price ladder it was Australia that wowed with its rich, layered, but still lifted results with Grenache, in particular producers Reillys, Byrne, Kalleske and Yangarra. Together, these top-scoring wineries proved that both the Barossa and McLaren Vale are natural homes for Grenache, with wine quality helped by the presence of very old vines in these regions.

COMPREHENSIVE VIEW
We were also pleased to see a couple of lovely examples from Chile, both crafted using historic bush vines – one from Loncomilla in Maule and the other from new label Clos de Luz. While this country is best known for its Cabernet blends, it was interesting to see that Grenache has found a suitable home here too – after all, this is a country with, for the most part, a Mediterranean climate, and, importantly, granitic soils, which the grape likes, along with hot sandy sites.

On the subject of soils, among those awarded the ultimate accolade of Grenache Master was Scala Dei, pioneering producer of Priorat, where Grenache grown on weathered blue slate has helped build the global reputation for this Spanish region as a source of some of the country’s greatest reds. Although Grenache is enjoying increasing prominence in South Africa and California, and has a long presence in Sardinia – where’s it’s called Cannonau – we were not presented with samples from these places, and while we saw plenty of wines from the south of France, we didn’t assess anything from the spiritual home of Grenache: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Nevertheless, the number of areas represented, as well as range of styles, gave us a fairly comprehensive view of the state of Grenache today, while confirming many of its sources of quality: the Clare Valley, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia; Aragón, Catalonia and Rioja in Spain, and the Rhône in France. It also showed us that Grenache can make delicious wines on its own, as well as in a blend, while the competition highlighted the grape’s ability to successfully yield a light, juicy red, as well as a complex, barrel-aged blockbuster.

In short, Grenache is a tough, heat-resistant grape that can produce crowd-pleasing results at all levels. It’s for these reasons that we believe Grenache is set for a higher profile in the global wine business.

Over the following pages you can see all the medallists from this year’s competition, and more information about the Global Sparkling Masters, including how to enter.

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