The Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards is a decidedly different wine awards ceremony, writes David Kermode, and one that resembles a friend’s summer nuptials more than it does one of the industry’s many black tie events. Now into its 14th year the awards focussed on Australian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with newly re-configured importer Liberty Wines winning both categories as well as Best Importer. For a full list of winners and more besides read on….
The Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards are supported by Wine Australia, Decanter, Riedel, Sensible Wines and Accolade and raises money for the Benevolent charity.
Liberty Wines swept the board at this year’s Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards, landing the top titles in both categories this year – Australian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With a total of four wines in the top ten – a Chardonnay and three Pinots – the importer also scooped the trophy for Best Importer. The wins come just days after it was announced that Sogrape group is taking a majority stake in Liberty, with Champagnes Charles Heidsieck, Piper-Heidsieck and Rare also investing and joining the board.
‘The Mambas’, now in their 14th year, are styled as a deliberately different awards ceremony, with the event resembling a summer wedding in a marquee on the lawn at the award-winning The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.
Watched over by chef proprietor and contributing editor at the Buyer, Roger Jones, who doesn’t vote, the wines are not judged blind and prices are clearly stated, providing those taking part with an unusual, but revealing ‘snapshot’ of their respective categories.
Bounding off the bus down the lane that leads to the Harrow’s bucolic setting, that sense of attending a good friend’s nuptials continues, until the serious work begins. With just over two hours to taste 91 Chardonnays and 49 Pinot Noirs, the mood is diligent, the tent surprisingly quiet. That said, there is no denying that this event is also great fun for the 72 judges, from the press and trade, including highly respected tasters such as Steven Spurrier, Masters of Wine Laura Jewell and Emma Symington, and Decanter’s Tina Gellie.
As for whether there is any temptation for those in the trade to cheat, scoring up their own wines? Well, one of the trade judges I spoke to confessed that they wouldn’t dare, and – quite frankly – with Jones keeping a constant eye over proceedings, I don’t blame them: I wouldn’t fancy my chances in a scrap with this particular rugby-loving superchef and one of his hot barbecue pokers. Anyway, it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event – supported by Wine Australia, Decanter, Riedel, Sensible Wines and Accolade – which raises money for The Benevolent charity.
The judging done, with an accountant totting up the scores behind the scenes, attention turns to the five course dinner.
Last year’s focus on sparkling wines saw Tasmania’s House of Arras scoop the top three positions, so this year it was time to celebrate that success, with Jones serving up its enticingly fresh 2007 Grand Vintage and a stunning EJ Carr 2004 Late Disgorged, a complex feast of waxy citrus and crumbly lemon shortbread, at his ‘pop up’ Oyster Bar in the garden.
Using a state-of-the-art barbecue that resembles Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, Jones then whisked up a delicious dinner, with Welsh lamb as its centrepiece (and fantastic sea bream for those of us fusspots who don’t like lamb), but the ‘talking point’ of this year’s meal – after last year’s ‘halloumi sensation’ – was undoubtedly his take on ‘boiled egg with soldiers’, an egg cup featuring a passion fruit ‘yolk’ topped with a white meringue mix. It is clever and it is sublime.
For most of us, the day is bookended by a ‘tale of two bus rides’. Many of those judging chose to stay somewhere local for the night (a very good idea, by the way), whilst the rest of us headed back, suitably relaxed, with the world’s most understanding coach driver at the controls.
Those winners in full:
The Chardonnay category:
1. Cullen ‘Kevin John’ 2017 – imported by Liberty Wines RRP £87.99
2. Pierro 2017 – imported by Laytons RRP £44.95
3. Penfold’s Reserve Bin 17A 2017 – imported by Wine Treasury RRP £79.00
4. Petaluma Tiers 2016 – imported byAccolade RRP £34.99
5. Tapanappa Tiers 2017 – imported by Mentzendorff RRP £48.60
The Pinot Noir category:
1. By Farr ‘Farrside’ 2016 – imported by Liberty Wines RRP £59.99
2. Paringa Estate 2014 – imported by Hallgarten and Novum RRP £55.00
3. Jane Eyre 2017 – imported by Liberty Wines RRP £45.99
4. Tolpuddle 2017 – imported by Liberty Wines RRP £59.99
5. Vinteloper Odeon Lenswood Pinot Noir 2016 – imported by Graft Wine Co £84.00
The Yvonne May Memorial Trophy for Best Value:
Penfolds Koonunga Hills 2018 – Imported by Wine Treasury RRP £9.00
The Decanter Perpetual Bowl for Best Importer:
David Kermode is a wine presenter, writer, broadcaster, judge and consultant to the Lanchester Group with his own website vinosaurus.co.uk.