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DAWA ‘Best in Show’ showcased at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

Ten of the top 20 'Best in Show' wines from the 2019 Decanter Asia Wine Awards were presented to more than 1200 wine lovers in Shanghai last week at Decanter's premier wine event in China.

On Saturday 16 November, the sixth edition of the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter welcomed over 1200 fine wine aficionados at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong to meet more than 160 star producers from 17 countries. 

An impressive 600+ fine wines were available to sample at the one-day event, including ten of the top awarded wines from this year’s Decanter Asia Wine Awards.

Hundreds of wine lovers visited the DAWA winners’ table to sample this year’s Best in Show winners

Located in the iconic grand ball room of the Ritz-Carlton, the DAWA winners’ table was visited by hundreds of eager wine lovers interested to sample the top-awarded wines – the ‘Best in Show’ winners – from the 2019 competition and meet DAWA 2019 judge Alex Cumming, the CEO and Head Sommelier of FirstCellars.com, one of China’s leading wine e-commerce businesses.

The diverse line-up offered tasters the ideal opportunity to sample stellar benchmarks from well-known regions like Champagne and Napa Valley and discover rising stars from countries like Georgia and Greece.

The line-up of DAWA 2019 Best in Show red wines available to sample

See the DAWA 2019 winners’ table line-up from the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter and tasting notes below.

Read more about the 2019 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter on DecanterChina.com

DAWA 2019 ‘Best in Show’ line-up:

Piper-Heidsieck, Essentiel Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, Champagne, France NV

Best in Show, 97 points

No trend in recent years in Champagne has been more significant than the gradual reduction of sugar levels in dosage, and it is remarkable how balanced Champagnes made in this style now seem to wine lovers and drinkers more generally. This non-vintage Blanc de Blancs illustrates the point perfectly, with its limpid purity and polished stone finesse: Extra Brut in style, yet not a trace of the gauntness and austerity once associated with low or zero-dosage Champagnes. The aromas, too, are fine-grained and pure, soft and creamy, just hinting at dessert apple and plant sap. The palate is lacy in texture, vivid and resonant in articulation; the finish fine-drawn and tapered.

Ogier, Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France 2018

Best in Show, 97 points

White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is never an obvious wine — or if it is, it’s a poor example. This wine provides a masterclass in how to bring three historic varieties together with a subtlety and grace which belies the warmth of the wine’s origins. The weight and marrow comes from its 30% Grenache; while the wine’s enticing aromatic charm – summer blossoms, crushed fennel and aniseed, acacia honey and ground white almonds – shows how well the historic Clairette can work with Roussanne. At 13.5% abv, the wine is generous without clumsiness or torpidity, and delicate yet ripe acidity and a faintly bitter, cleansing finish add to its overall style and swish.

Guests had the option to sample Ogier’s 2018 Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes and Kartlis Valley’s 2017 Qvevri Amber Kisi chilled or at room temperature

Kartlis Valley, Qvevri Amber Kisi, Kakheti, Georgia 2017

Best in Show, 97 points

Of the two outstanding Georgian Qvevri wines to make it into this year’s DAWA top twenty, this Kisi-based amber wine is certainly the most characterful. The aromas combine freshness and rich, singular allusiveness as only skin-fermented whites can do: look out for autumn orchard fruits, windfall apples and a barley sugar tang as well as more savoury notes of cheese rind, milk curd and bread dough. You can see the legacy of the wine’s months with its skins and perhaps stems in the firmly structured tannins. The 13.2% of alcohol is perfect, bringing warmth and glycerol to balance the tannins. Great qvevri wines must always be based on fully ripe fruit, so the acidity levels are modest, while all those unusual but arresting aromatic notes come cascading back to fill out the palate with interest and intrigue. Definitely a food wine, too. NB this wine was previously known under “Kart-Valley”.

Bodegas Linaje Garsea, Archangelus Gabrihel French Oak, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2014

Best in Show, 97 points

This year’s DAWA was a great one for Spain’s Tempranillo, as a look at our other Gold and Platinum medals will confirm: we had ample, multi-region Tempranillo choice as we came to pick our top twenty Best in Show. This wine, the first of a brace of Ribera del Duero examples, is very dark in colour, with alluringly sensual aromas of fleshy plum and black cherry, cosseted by sweet spices and soft Havana leaf. On the palate, it is deep, dark and rich, with much softer tannins (for example) than its top twenty Chianti counterpart. Still more blackberry richness comes to join the plum and cherry in the mouth. The wine has attractive supporting acidity, and the oaking shows welcome restraint, allowing that gorgeous fruit to sing through.

Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera, Millenium, Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009

Best in Show, 97 points

A year in which two Ribera del Duero wines make it into the top twenty while no Rioja came through (though check out our Platinum and Gold Medal wines for some excellent Rioja choices) surely marks a milestone in the development of Spain’s great Duero region. This was the oldest wine among the still, unfortified choices in our top picks — yet a casual glance at its dark, black-purple colour is likely to surprise. The aromas, too, are youthful and packed with sweet, sumptuous black fruits; it’s really in the harmony with which these aromas swim together that you can note the passing of the years. In the mouth, the wine is soft and mouth-filling, autumnal and warm-fruited; the depth of that fruit and the amplitude of the wine’s coaxing tannins, though, mean that it still has at least a decade of cellar time ahead of it.

Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera, Millenium, Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009

St Hugo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia 2016

Best in Show, 97 points

Coonawarra fights it out annually with Margaret River as the source of Australia’s finest Cabernet. We don’t have a Margaret River example in this year’s top selection, but this dark red-black wine from the 2016 vintage underscores the South Australian region’s virtues: a clean, fresh precision of aroma in which blackcurrant meets tea leaf, and lively, midweight flavours which tease yet satisfy in equal measure. The allusive profile is very different, but in terms of classicism and balance this wine marks a perfect Southern Hemisphere counterpoint to our Best in Show Chianti Classico.

Darioush, Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA 2016

Best in Show, 97 points

No region can mix ease of access with both the stamp of terroir and a fine-wine dignity quite like the Napa valley, and this 2016 example lives up to all the regional promise. It’s a dark red-black in colour, with exuberant yet refined berry fruits; the palate is soft, rich, open, mixing a little fig, pepper and tobacco with generous plum and bramble. Look out, too, for the salve of its tannins. Billowing Napa Cabernet provides the core of the blend, yet 6% of Merlot and 7% of Cabernet Franc help the wine maintain its complexity all the way to a dark, softly smoky finish.

Avantis Estate, Agios Chronos, Evia, Central Greece, Greece 2015

Best in Show, 97 points

Greece’s second largest island has its indigenous specialities, but the wine which caught our judges’ attention was this Cote-Rotie-like blend of Syrah, or Shiraz, with 8% Viognier. It’s already almost four years old, but you wouldn’t know it from its dark black-purple colour; the aromas are full of sweet enchantment, both floral and fruited, while in the mouth the wine is soft, bright and lively, without any sense either of hot-country forcing or weight, or of exaggerated winery confection. More flowers enliven the swish blackcurrant and black cherry fruits. Totally convincing, and a great blind-tasting wine to get your friends guessing.

Avantis Estate’s 2015 Agios Chronos caught our judges’ attention at DAWA judging week and was equally a stand favourite at the Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

Capel Vale, Whispering Hill Single Vineyard Shiraz, Mount Barker, Western Australia, Australia 2018

Best in Show, 97 points

The Mount Barker tradition with Shiraz may not be as well known as others in Australia, but this complex, enticingly scented midweight red stakes a convincing claim to the fine-wine high ground. It’s dark but not saturatedly deep in colour; precise and enchanting floral scents and sweet spices rather than sumo-like fruit dominate the aromatic profile. The palate brings those floral and spice notes together once again, and it’s just a spoonful or two of tar and earth rather than tannin which bring complexity to the pomegranate and damson fruits. Soft, naturally articulated acidity completes the happy picture.

Henriques & Henriques, Sercial, Madeira, Portugal 2001

Best in Show, 97 points

Dry, challenging Sercial is a Madeira-lover’s Madeira. There is usually little overt sweetness with which to offset the pungency and attack of age itself (eighteen years in this case). Once discovered, though, the style is limitlessly rewarding — as those who venture into this surprisingly accessible example of the genre will find. Burnished, tamarind scents give way to a cascade of lemon, grape and grapefruit — yet the wine’s 55g/l of sugar help shape and resolve those flavours into something almost toothsome. The wine’s prominent acidity (a typical feature of Madeira) means that it tastes drier than that residual sugar level would suggest, and the evaporative concentration of the ageing process leaves the wine as clean on the last sip as it was on the first.

Henriques & Henriques 2001 Sercial was a popular finish at the DAWA winners’ table

See all DAWA 2019 results


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