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Blossom Hill chosen as California benchmark

Blossom Hill, the UK’s top-selling wine brand, has been selected by a panel of UK judges as one of 15 ‘benchmark’ California wines.

The 2003 Blossom Hill Reserve Chardonnay was chosen along with 14 other wines by a panel of seven judges, headed by Matthew Jukes and including some highly experienced wine critics.

The idea of the benchmarking exercise, John McLaren, UK director of the California Wine Institute said, was to show the wine world a selection of ‘exemplary’ mid-price California wines to ‘show what the industry is capable of doing.’

Around 189 wines were tasted blind, divided into preliminary groups by varietal and reduced to a shortlist of 40, all of which were tasted by all panel members.

To be eligible the wines had to cost between £5 and £10 and be made in commercial quantities, ie around 10,000 cases per year.

The Reserve Chardonnay was one of only two wines that got unanimous approval from the panel.

One source said they were ‘slightly amazed by the results’ and the Blossom Hill decision ‘bordered on the embarassing’. The winery, which is owned by Diageo, produces 13 different wines and sells 3.5m cases a year in the UK off trade. Its White Zinfandel is the UK’s best-selling rosé. It is (almost) universally dismissed by wine critics.

But, McLaren said, it was important to remember that the wine chosen was the Reserve Chardonnay and ‘a very different wine indeed’ to the the producer’s entry-level products.

The full list of 15 wines will be released at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair. decanter.com understands wines from E&J Gallo, and two high-end wines from Constellation’s Cellar Door division – Ravenswood and Estancia – are included.

McLaren said he was ‘delighted’ that the wineries chosen range from the huge and world-famous to smaller and more interesting operations.

‘We are criticised for not producing quality at popular price points,’ he added. ‘Hopefully this will go some way to changing perceptions of California wine.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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