Winning and losing in London

Decanter announces the regional trophies in its wine competition at the London International Wine Fair, and did so yesterday. It was rather poignant seeing producers lining up to consult the computers and printouts at the Decanter stand, to see if by any chance they’d got a gold – or even a Commended as a consolation prize (though I noticed a few who were notably unconsoled).

One South African producer who will be pleased is Perdeberg, who got the Regional Trophy for Red Rhône Varietal over ₤10 for the Rex Equus Shiraz. I was not particularly kind about this range recently – but this will do them good. (The other wines in the range didn’t do particularly well, as far as I could see in an initial quick look at the results.

Other South African regional trophies (which will go forward to meet the winners from other regional judgements) were:

Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2008

Bouchard-Finlayson Galpin Peak 2008

Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Cederberg V Generations Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2006

Paul Cluver Riesling NLH 2008

Pongracz Desiderius 2001

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2007

Welbedacht Hat Trick 2008


Congratulations to them. It is, however, always worth looking down the list of results, which puts things in context. The same tasters, presumably, who gave a gold medal to Rustenberg for their Chardonnay gave just a “commended” (below bronze) to the Five Soldiers version. Buitenverwachting Christine 2006 And Vilafonté M 2005 languished there too, with Chamonix, Dornier, Meerlust, Hamilton Russell, Tokara and Vergelegen getting bronze medals for some of their best products. Ah well, the splendours and miseries of large line-up blind tastings.

The Fair itself is, for a taster, what one makes of it after getting over the initial confusion of such a plenitude of possibilities. I am concentrating on New World wines this year, which is where I probably need most topping up. Highlight of day one for me was undoubtedly a formal tasting of some 2007 reds from New Zealand – particularly the superb Pinot Noirs, which have a lithely muscular charm and freshness, brilliant fragrance and structure, that is just wonderful.

Much less to my taste was the line-up of the few dozen Gold and Trophy winners from Argentina’s most important competition. Very impressive wines – nearly all huge in flavour, acidity, tannin, fruit, and just about anything else a wine can be huge in. Made primarily for American tastes, I suppose, but Argentina has been getting much acclaim in Britain recently, where it seems to be tentatively moving into the favour of important wine critics now that the latter are showing real signs of boredom with Australia. But I must explore the Argentine non-show-winners today, assuming that, as in the Decanter Award lists of Cape wines, some of the best will have scraped by with a bronze – or nothing at all, as no competitions seem willing to irritate producers, and reveal all the strange decisions of their tasters, by listing the also-rans who get nothing at all.

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