Make mine an English

SWA 2012

Judges in the UK’s only on-trade wine competition, the Sommelier Wine Awards, have given English wines the thumbs up, awarding not only three Golds, but also a Critics Choice award. One sparkler was chosen as the By the Glass fizz of choice, and a red from Kent picked up a silver.

Biddenden Vineyards in Kent won the sole still Gold for its Gribble Bridge Ortega, while the coveted Critics’ Choice award went to Ridgeview for its superlative Blanc de Noir and Dorset’s Furleigh Estate scooped a By the Glass award – only eight of these are awarded.

‘We are extremely pleased to have been awarded the first gold for an English still wine,’ said Biddenden’s Vikki Wright. ‘Our Ortega is the wine for which we are best known and it is great to have been recognised for the many years of work which have gone into ensuring that our wine is of the highest and most consistent quality.’


While the still wines were judged in their own category in the Old World section, the sparkling wines are scrutinized by price alongside fizz from around the world.

Now in its sixth year and run by Imbibe magazine, the Sommelier Wine Awards attracted over 1800 wines in 2012, a 20% increase on 2011. Aside from fortifieds and fizz, only wines destined for restaurants, bars and pubs are allowed to enter.

The rollcall of judges reads like a Who’s Who of the bar and restaurant industry, including group wine buyers for the likes of The Tate, Galvin and Hakkasan restaurant. Many judges were pleasantly surprised by what they found in the English still flights. While Sussex, Kent and Dorset shared the Gold honours, Hampshire was the strongest county in the Silvers and Bronzes, with Cornwall, Devon and Gloucestershire also picking up medals. Gusbourne in Kent was the winery that did the unthinkable: scoring a bronze for its Pinot Noir 2012, alongside a silver for its highly regarded Blanc de Blancs 2007.

Interestingly, while the sparkling wines were dominated by those made with Champagne varietals – Chardonnay, Pinots Noir and Meunier – it wasn’t the widely touted Bacchus grape leading the still wine medals. Indeed, the only vineyard to pick up two still medals, Hampshire’s Danebury Vineyards with its pair of bronzes, scored them for its off-dry, aromatic wines, its Schonburger and Madeleine Angevine.

‘I was looking for wines that had real stand-out personality, that said English wine and couldn’t be from anywhere else in the world,’ said Marco Feraldi, Galvin La Chapelle. ‘Many of these wines stood out with fresh, fruity and minerally character.’

For those in the trade, there will be a chance try some of the Gold medal-winning wines at the Imbibe Live! show in July at Olympia

Full list of English wines available here.

As deputy on the competition, I must declare an interest. All wines are tasted blind, with only the trade price being visible. I was not on the judging panel deciding the English still/sparkling medals.

In honour of its award, Biddenden has been made DrinkBritain’s Producer of the Week. Find out here how you can visit this popular Kent producer.