Now into its 13th year the influential and, let’s face it, fun tasting event the Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards, proved what strength and depth there is in Australian Sparkling wine and Cabernet Sauvignon at a wide range of price points. Peter Dean hopped on the charabanc to The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, score card and tastebuds at the ready.
After two hours tasting 108 wines the judges, including Stephen Spurrier, were treated to Roger Jones’ Michelin-starred cuisine, to pair the wines against, before the winners were announced.
With a generic focus but broad criteria, the Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards are an illuminating and enjoyable way to test-taste individual wine categories, in this year’s case, Australia Sparkling and Cabernet Sauvignon.
32 bottles of non-vintage fizz and vintages as wide-ranging as 2005-2017 rub shoulders with each other, their price points as diverse as £11.35 – £99.99 RRP. With the Cabernet Sauvignon there were 76 examples from 2009-2016 with prices ranging from £9.99 to £350.
True to the adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ the Top 10 Sparkling (all bar two) were the 10 most expensive from the selection – the winner House of Arras Late Disgorged 2003 (Accolade Wines) being the dearest.
Of the Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignons only two were below the £50 price point, the winning Cab Sauv was Henschke Cyril (Enotria & Coe) with an RRP of £99.
I cannot think of any other awards ceremony where heavyweights take on flyweights like this in the same ring. What this does, however, is give a broad and illuminating snapshot of where these categories currently are and where the value lies.
Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt NV (Bibendum), for example, was named Best Value Wine on the day but in all honesty the tasting was peppered with shining examples of great value wines that were punching well above their weight and standing shoulder-to-shoulder, often comfortably, with ‘greater’ rivals.
Other notable points were that:
Tasmania showed its mettle (once again)
In case you needed reminding, Tasmania’s cool climate is making Australia’s best sparkling wines – apart from two wines from Adelaide Hills’ Bird in Hand and Croser – all of the award winners were from Tasmanian wineries.
Four of the 10 awards went to House of Arras wines including gold, silver and bronze – meaning that its importer Accolade Wines won an embarrassment of riches including the overall Best Importer gong.
Regionality wasn’t so apparent in the Cab Sauv category
Given the difference in the age of the wines and the price points, regional typicity of the wines was not that obvious.
But consistency was
In the £20-£40 price bracket there were a good deal of Cabernet Sauvignons that were all trying to do the same thing – to the same sector of the market. Rich, fruit-forward with a small variety in acidity.
The best haloumi comes from sheep’s milk
I kid you not, one of the appetisers Roger Jones conjured up on his new BBQ contraption was out of this world. Forget the squeaky haloumi from Cyprus that is in the supermarket chillers, this came from Bath and from sheep – not cows. Next year it really should have an award category all its own.
Those winners in full
- House of Arras Late Disgorged, 2003, Accolade
- House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007, Accolade
- House of Arras 2005 Rose, Accolade
- Clover Hill Cuvee Exceptional 2011
- Clover Hill Brut Exceptional Rose 2013
- Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt NV, Bibendum
- Jansz 2011, Negociants/Fells
- Bird in Hand, Joy, 2017, Seckford
- Croser 2013, Accolade
- House of Arras, Brut Elite NV, Accolade
- Henschke Cyril 2012, Enotria
- Penfolds Bin 169, 2013, Treasury
- Cullen Diana Madeline 2016, Liberty
- Bellwether Coonawarra Cab 2010, Red Squirrel
- Vasse Felix Tom Cullity 2015 Negociants/Fells
- Grosset Gaia 2014, Liberty
- Penfolds Bin 707 2015, Treasury
- Moss Wood, 2015, Laytons
- Wakefield The Visionary 2013, Louis Latour
- Petaluma Evans Vineyard 2015. Accolade
Yvonne May Memorial Trophy Best Value Wine;
Josef Chromy – Pepik Sekt, Bibendum
The Decanter Award for Best Importer;