Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Michael Noonan decided to spare the wine community in Ireland further pain in the recent budget so I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.

Remember that €5 of every €9 bottle of wine goes to the tax man, so what we really needed was a reduction in excise duty.

The Independent Off-Licence sector breathed a particularly loud sigh of relief given the difficulties they have in competing with the multiples in recent years.

The trade body for the Independents is the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) and one worthy service they do their members every year is organise the Gold Star Awards for wines that are exclusive to the Independent sector.

Importers submit over 600 wines and these are whittled down in a series of blind tastings to a final three in a range of different categories. The final judging is usually members of the press and I have been asked to be a judge over the past two years.

I select a few of my favourites below but I should also tell you about one shock result this year. An English Sparkling wine imported by Liberty Wines called Hattingly Valley, beat off two (very well known) Champagnes to win the Best Sparkling Wine under €60.

Myself and my fellow judge marked almost identically in this category so the wine won fair and square thanks to its lovely elegant fruit and fine mousse.

Overall I think it was the texture of the wine as much as the flavour that allowed it to win through — it just sat better on the palate.

A small booklet listing the winners along with tasting notes and pictures is available in your local off-licence.

Most categories were hard fought so spare a thought for the silver and bronze medal winners also.

Overall Italy performed best of any country, winning four gold medals with Australia surprisingly winning three. All these wines are exclusive to Independents and are at discounted prices until next summer.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Umbrele Merlot 2013 Recas, Romania - €9.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Despite Romania’s wine-making tradition and good grape growing conditions very little of quality seems to be available for export. This is an exception however from one of the best regarded producers – juicy plums and black cherry fruit flavours with good concentration and a touch of spice.

Deakin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Australia - €9.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Deakin Estate won the red and white categories for “New World Under €10”. The Chardonnay has ripe tropical fruit and citrus while this Cabernet has fine rich spicy berry fruit flavours and a fine bit of elegance.

Duca del Salento Salice Salentino 2010, Puglia, Italy - €14.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Last year’s Gold Star Red Wine of the Year was also from Salice Salentino. The stand out wine on the day, my fellow taster and I used words like “wow” such is the concentration of smoky complex fruit – a steal at price.

 

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Louis Jadot “Couvent des Jacobins” Chardonnay 2013, France - €19.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Two Chardonnays won gold medals this year so here’s hoping this much maligned grape is making a bit of a comeback. This was the White Wine of the Year and we loved its complex peach, pear and grapefruit flavours rounded off with some vanilla and spice (a portion is aged in oak).

Villa Antinori Rosso IGT 2010, Tuscany, Italy - €19.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Antinori is one of the great wine names, not just in Italy but in the larger wine world. While their most famous wines such as Tignanello and Solaia are out of most people’s price range this punches well above its weight with chocolate and dark fruit aromas and a rich supple palate.

Gnarly Head Zinfandel 2011, Lodi, California - €19.99

Wine: English Sparkling wine wins Gold Star Awards

Stockists: NOffLA Independent Off-Licences Nationwide – e.g. O’Donovans, Galvins, Ardkeen, Worldwide Wines.

Decent Zinfandel is quite difficult to find in Ireland at a decent price. This is made from vines up to 80 years old and delivers lots of rich smoky spice and strong cherry flavours. This is begging for a chargrilled steak.


Lifestyle

Fiann Ó Nualláin follows in the footsteps of the Fianna as he explores a province’s hills and vales.Munster marvels: Plants that are unique to a province

Cupid must be something of a motoring enthusiast, as he had most definitely steered his way in the neighbourhood when Amie Gould and Shane O’Neill met at the Rally of the Lakes 12 years ago.Wedding of the Week: Cupid steers couple to right track

When it comes to podcasting, all it takes is one idea — and who knows where it can take you.Podcast Corner: Crimes and creatures rule at Cork’s first podcast fest

Claymation meets science fiction in this enchanting film, writes Esther McCarthy.Latest Shaun adventure is out of this world

More From The Irish Examiner