DWWA 2014: United Kingdom insights
This was another great selection of English (and one Welsh) wines, with a superb Trophy and two great Gold-medal fizzes and a good crop of Silvers, both still and sparkling. Numbers were up on previous years to 104 wines, reflecting the increasing number of vineyards and wineries in the UK. However, the total number of medals was slightly down, due to the tiny harvest in 2012 and the difficult, late harvest in 2013. The consistency and quality of the wines overall, but especially the sparkling wines, improve every year, and tasters are now not nearly as surprised as they used to be by how good the wines are.
What should we buy from here?
As ever, the best English and Welsh wines are the sparkling wines made from the three classic Champagne varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are a few good sparklers made using Seyval Blanc, mainly from established producers who know how to deal with this grape, but you have to hunt for them. Our rosé sparkling wines are particularly good and would be my first choice. 2011 wines scooped the three top gongs, showing what a great vintage this was. The best 2011 still wines are mostly sold out, but if you can find some – especially the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs – they are well worth drinking.
What should we leave on the shelf?
Some of the sparkling wines made from non-classic varieties are an acquired taste and usually not as good as the Champagne lookalikes. 2013 was a tricky year for still wines, and while there are some good ones out there, others should be treated warily. As always, many English and Welsh reds are for forgiving palates.
What should we keep an eye on?
The 2011 vintage is undoubtedly the best since 2009, and the best still and sparkling wines from it are excellent. Most of the decent 2011 still wines are sold out by now, but the sparkling wines from this vintage are only really just starting to appear and are excellent – especially the rosés – which always mature a little earlier than classic blends or blancs de blancs.