Spent yesterday judging 110 English wines, blind, for the South West Vineyards Association at Three Choirs
It's the first time I have tried so many English wines together, and it proved to be an informative experience. There were six of us judging, and it was quite a fun process - consensus was reached painlessly in most cases. Here are some of my impressions.
1. There were some delicious wines. Overall quality was pretty consistent, with fewer shockers than I was expecting - and remember that in this sort of event the submitted wines include bottles from established producers as well as some from enthusiastic part-timers. I came away thinking that the hype about the future of the English wine industry is justified.
2. 2007 showed better than 2006, which was a bit surprising.
3. The most successful dry whites were those where the fresh, grassy, green notes were well balanced by some riper fruity notes, and where the acidity wasn't too harsh. Because of the climate we enjoy, growers should be looking to lose greenness and lose acidity - the least successful wines were just too green and harshly acidic.
4. While you can use residual sugar to balance too-high acid, you can't use it to mask greenness.
5. Sparkling wines are pretty consistent, but some of them had crazy-high acid levels and just weren't in balance. I also wonder whether some of the base wines needed just a little more time. Lots of promise here, though.
6. The reds need some work. Managing red ferments is an area that many winemakers need to look at. Of the dozen or so reds in the competition, two were overtly bretty, three were reduced, and one had lunatic levels of volatile acidity. Some winemakers seem obsessed with colour at the expense of flavour.
7. There were a handful of wines that were disgusting. One tasted of rhubarb. Another smelled of diesel oil. I wonder why people bother submitting wines like this? Do they actually like them? Do they think the judges will like them? Or are they in denial?
Pictured is tasting in progress. In a quaintly English fashion, the bottles were masked by hand-knitted covers, all different.
Labels: English wine