As a Wine Educator, this is one of the busiest – and most interesting -times of my working year but I’ve just run my last tasting of 2017 and so I can relax for a few weeks. This year, that final event featured one of my most popular themes: a contest between wines from Europe against the Rest of the World with the audience voting for their favourites. It’s one that almost always makes for an enjoyable evening.
With the sales figures showing that UK customers prefer wines from the Rest of the World to those originating in Europe, it’s often a surprise to many when I tell them that the tasting is a David and Goliath battle – with Europe, not the Rest of the World, as Goliath. In fact, most years Europe produces around twice as much wine as the Rest of the World and either France or Italy alone turns out more than USA, Argentina and Australia (the 3 largest non-European producers) together. 2017 was a different story but that’s a blog for another day.
The contest this time featured 8 different wines in 4 matched pairs, all tasted blind so that no-one (except me!) knew the identity of any wine. When the votes were added up, the Rest of the World was the narrow winner overall, but Europe put up a fair fight winning one of the 4 rounds and tying in another.
The European success was the delightful, herby, fragrant Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige in northern Italy (£10.99 – all the wines for this tasting were bought from Majestic), while the ‘Rest’ winners were from California and Chile. The latter, Montes’ Single Vineyard Chardonnay from the cool Casablanca Valley (£8.99) showed a lovely buttery richness and just a hint of vanilla and spice from brief oak ageing.
California’s winner, Majestic’s Parcel Series Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, was the cheapest wine of the evening and a real bargain at £7.49. 5 years old and with all the soft, harmonious flavours that age produces – this is remarkable for the price.
And, indeed, with none of the wines above £11, this tasting showed that, by shopping around you really don’t have to spend a fortune to find winning wines.