International Sparkling Wine Review judging has taken place

09 November, 2010

The International Sparkling Wine Review judging took place on November 9 at Denbies, England’s largest vineyard, south-west  London.

The judges blinded tasted 90 wines from Argentina, Australia, Burgundy, Champagne, Chile, England, Italy, Languedoc, Loire, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia and Spain (13).

The judges comprised wine writer Simon Woods,  winemaker and consultant  John Worontshcak, Sue Daniels, winemaker/technologist with UK retailer Marks & Spencer (table one), master of wine and consultant Sam Harrop MW, Dee Blackstock MW, sparkling wine buyer for retailer Waitrose (a major sponsor of the review) and Pieter Ferreira, cellarmaster with Graham Beck the South African wine producer known for its Cap Classique sparkling wines (table two).

The judges comments and scores were then checked and adjudicated by wine writer Jamie Goode, author of the authoritative Wine Science book and Jean-Marc Sauboua, head of winemaking, production and development  at Direct Wines.  If Goode and Sauboua wished to vary scores by more than two, they were obliged to go back to the initial judges to gain concensus.

Daniels told Drinks International she had been impressed by the Italian sparklers, proseccos submitted and she had a better perspective of Spanish Cava then hitherto.  She expressed concern at some of the Chilean sparkling wines which she had tasted.

“They have been ‘interesting’,” she said.  “Some of the flavours have not been typical of sparkling wines. I wonder if the ripeness of grapes for still wines does not translate to sparkling wines. There may be issues about the picking and selecting of grapes (in Chile) for sparkling wines,” concluded Daniels.

Harrop said that by tasting blind they had removed any bias and then the chemical analysis allowed the judges to make a unaffected, measured and  robustly scientific appraisal of the submitted wines.  He said: “This initiative is to help a struggling category sharpen up its game, giving them something to work with. Rather than just issue gold, silver and bronze medals , we detail what we think is right or wrong so they can, say, alter the acidity or the nutrients in the fermentation.”

He said research carried out last year showed that while consumers know champagne and maybe cava, they did not understand the breadth of the sparkling wine category. People would be aware of a Jacob’s Creek sparkler as part of its range but would not connect it as an example of New World sparkling wines. He commented that he had tasted some crémant some of which were “incredible” while others were “crap”.

Ferreira commented that his table had sent back a bottle of Champagne because it was unduly pink. There was such bottle variation that the second bottle was more acceptable to the judges and was judged.

The next stage took place the following day.  The four co-chairman, Goode, Harop, Worontschak and Sauboua met to assess the packaging, branding and suitability of the wines for the key UK market.  Organiser Mike Florence told Drinks International said that the results will be posted up on the International Sparkling Wine Review website at the end of January (entrants have the right to have the scores, chemical analysis finds and judges’ comments withheld if they wish) and the International Sparkling Wine Symposium itself will be held at Cordoniu’s headquarters in Spain, near Barcelona in June.

For more information: or Mike Florence on

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