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French winemakers lead the field as Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 winners revealed

French winemakers have reasserted their authority on the wine world by scooping some of the most coveted trophies at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards ceremony, with South Africa, Canada, the US and British supermarket chains also scoring notable successes.

,Damian Carrington of Fields, Morris & Verdin collects the Best White Blend Over £15 International Trophy for the Domaine de la Vougeraie Monopole Le Clos Blanc de Vougeraie 2011 from Steven Spurrier

More than 200 guests, including some of the wine world’s biggest names, gathered at Decanter’s headquarters in central London last night to hear first-hand which producers have won the 33 International Trophies that represent the most prestigious prizes at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

France won seven International Trophies, more than any other wine producing nation, in what proved a particularly strong showing for the country’s white wines.

Burgundy’s Domaine de la Vougeraie won Best White Blend Over £15 for its Monopole Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot 2011, while Paul Zinck’s Pinot Gris Portrait 2012 from Alsace won Best Off Dry Over £15, and Jean-Paul Balland’s Grande Cuvee 2012 Sancerre got Best Sauvignon Blanc over £15. 

Jean-Paul Balland’s daughter, Isabelle, who is now the winemaker at the estate, said she was thrilled with the Trophy. ‘I have to text my family; they’re going to go crazy,’ she told Decanter.com at last night’s ceremony. She trained as a winemaker in Burgundy but returned to the family estate with her sister in 2001, aged 23, after her mother fell ill. After helping her father and perfecting her skills for seven years, she became the estate’s winemaker in 2008. 

Other French successes included Charles Heidsieck’s Blanc des Millenaires Brut 1995 Champagne, which won Best Sparkling Over £15.

‘This shows the constant re-invention and therefore re-evaluation of France, whose staying power is now unquestioned,’ said Steven Spurrier, Decanter consultant editor and chair of DWWA.

Competition for International Trophies is intense. Winners at DWWA 2014 – which were all available for tasting at last night’s ceremony – constituted just 0.22% of the 15,007 wines entered

Judges awarded 10,455 medals in total at DWWA 2014, including 125 Regional Trophies, 454 gold medals, 2,003 silver, 4,378 bronze and 3,620 commended. Judging involved 224 specialist tasters from around the world, including 66 Masters of Wine and 18 Master Sommeliers.

Regional Trophies are chosen from gold medal winners in a particular region, and then compete for International Trophies in specific categories defined by wine style.

Other notable International Trophy winners revealed last night included two own-label wines produced by UK supermarkets. Morrisons won Best Red Wine Blend Under £15 for its Signature Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 that was last week on offer for £6.49-a-bottle, while Marks & Spencer’s Eclipse Bio Bio Riesling from Chile won Dry Riesling Under £15.

As a country, South Africa enjoyed a good year at DWWA 2014. Its producers picked up five International Trophies, including: Best Bordeaux Varietal Under £15, won by Hartenberg’s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch; Best Rhone Varietal Under £15, won by Spier’s 2011 Creative Block 3 from the Coastal Region and Best Chardonnay Over £15, won by Jordan’s 2013 Chardonnay from Stellenbosch.

‘South African wine has come of age, mainly due to more mature vineyards and a young and vibrant new generation of winemakers,’ said Lynne Sheriff MW, DWWA regional chair for South Africa.

Among the other winners was an historic victory for Canada, which got its first International Trophy for sweet wine thanks to Inniskillin’s 2012 Vidal Icewine scooping Best Sweet Wine Over £15.

In the US, there was also a notable nod to Washington State’s rising reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon. L’Ecole No.41 winery from Walla Walla Valley won Best Bordeaux Blend Over £15 for its 2011 Ferguson wine, featuring 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc.

Full results and details of the awards, click here.

Written by Chris Mercer

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