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Buon Vino Newsletter Oct 2011

The lunacy of the Decanter World Wine awards!

This month I am looking back to Sept and the Decanter World wine awards.   Busy times means the letter didn’t go out last month but I must have a dig at Decanter and their infamous publication of the ‘UK’s best wines’!  This surely is the most meaningless and absurd classification of wine in the press and it really surprises me that such a prestigious magazine as Decanter continues to confuse everyone in such a way.  You only have to try and read the ‘How to get the most out of these results’ section to understand that ‘it is impossible to get anything out of these results.

In truth, you have to respect the unbelievable organisation of this tasting and the huge amount of work which goes into putting the awards together.  But for the consumer it is too vast, too confusing and too dull to really get anything out of it.  I was trying to base this opinion on good evidence from the huge lists of thousands of wines but it all became a bit much.  Looking through reams and reams of fairly meaningless names of bottles on a page nearly put me to sleep.   Some of those names are also pretty ludicrous to say the least.  Fancy a bottle of ‘Plunkett Fowles, Ladies who shoot their lunch Shiraz, Strathbogle Ranges, Victoria 09’? What a mouthful!  (In this month’s issue they give this wine four stars so despite the name, it must be pretty good stuff!)

I suppose the main thing that strikes me about it all from an independent retailer’s (slightly biased) point of view is how many of the medal winners are pretty none descript brands from the supermarkets.  Where are the boutique wineries?  Where are the small producers whom Decanter writes about quite regularly?  Ernest and Julio Gallo win medals, Cono Sur and Concha Y Toro sweep up the Chilean medals and Mcguigan win loads in Australia.  All the Tesco finest and Marks and Spencer’s ‘best choice’ or whatever they are called seem to win medals.  The wines are supposedly judged on their ‘terroir’, but I know for a fact that the Sainsbury’s ‘taste the difference’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes from a company called Yealands who source the grapes from around 1000 hectares of vines all over the Awatere.  Terroir?

Why is it that all the supermarkets and big retailers like Majestic and the Wine Society win the medals?  Being a cynic I would say it is because they are the only retailers with the resources to even enter wines for the competition.  I seem to remember from an earlier Decanter it costs something like £75 to enter a wine.  Majestic probably enter a 100 wines, maybe more, that’s 7.5 grand!  That’s my annual salary!  Decanter certainly must make a bob or two out of this competition.  Over 12000 wines are submitted.  In fact a reliable source who judged at such wine competitions tells me there is actually plenty of nudging going on and comments like, ‘these guys have submitted loads, can we not give them a few bronze medals?’.

I may be wrong and if any of you can put me straight on all of this then please do.

The cynic in me who doubts everything that is big and try’s to dominate markets tells me this is a load of bollocks and nobody should rush out and by a bottle of ‘Squawking bird in the hand after a hunt in the bush and a kangaroo steak Shiraz 2008’ from Tesco because it won a regional trophy.

Instead pop down to your local independent wine merchant (or give them a ring and they’ll deliver) and ask them for a recommendation.  Much safer, much more enjoyable and I reckon much better value for money.

Rob, a grumpy independent wine merchant!

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