Results for the second Independent English Wine Awards are out today, commending a diverse and spectacular range of English wines. With the reputation for the IEWA's building, this year saw the total number of entries up by approximately 38% over 2017 and individual producer participants up to 51 from 32. Perhaps most exciting is that the quality of the entries has increased significantly too, with a total of thirteen wines taking home a Gold Medal, compared to last year's three gold medals. I was proud to be asked to join the judging panel once again, and blind tasted through two of eight flights of wine, which included Pinot Noir-based sparkling wines (both Rosé and Blanc de Noirs) and finished on still Rosé and Red wines.
The results are hugely encouraging for the industry, with both big-name producers and lesser-known, emerging producers (and grapes) picking up gold medals. The sparkling rosé category was particularly healthy this year, with Hattingley Valley, Cottonworth and Langham Estate particularly impressing the judges, the latter of which was announced as Overall Sparkling Wine Winner. Elsewhere, in the sparkling wine categories, Jenkyn Place & Wiston once again impressed, while Laverstocke Park's inaugural 2010 Vintage Brut stood out with its development and richness. Most interesting was the Astley Vineyard Vintage Sparkling Kerner 2010, being the only non-Champagne varietal sparkling wine to take home a gold. I'll be taking a closer look at this wine next month.
Meanwhile, in the still wine category, there were six gold medals awarded, including two of last year's top winners; Tuffon Hall and Lyme Bay, who triumphed once again. Tuffon's Pinot Noir Rosé was a clear favourite in the still rosé category, with its delicate Provence-like tones and refreshing summer fruit palate. One of the most impressive wines on the day was Lyme Bay's first ever red wine, the Pinot Noir 2016. This wine defied expectation, with its juicy, fleshy red berry flavours and superb textural tannin and oak integration. Bacchus also scored highly, with Giffords Hall, Hidden Spring and New Hall Vineyard all taking away gold medals. It was no surprise to see Stopham Estate take a gold and the title of Overall Still Winner for its Pinot Gris 2015, with its hugely appealing, concentrated fruit character.
Overall, the list of thirteen gold medal winners is, crucially, diverse in both region, grape varietal and producer. The IEWA is a fantastic platform for producers small and large, and after two years of involvement, I only see the awards going from strength to strength.
Head over to IEWA.uk for the full list of winners, including Silver and Bronze medals.
Sparkling Wine Gold Medals
Langham Rosé Brut 2014
Cottonworth Rosé 2014
Astley Vineyard Sparkling Kerner 2014
Hattingley Valley Sparkling Rosé 2014
Jenkyn Place Classic Cuvée 2014
Langham Classic Rosé 2014
Laverstoke Park Vintage Brut 2010
Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs NV
Still Wine Gold Medals
Stopham Estate Pinot Gris 2015
Giffords Hall Bacchus 2016
Hidden Spring Bacchus 2016
Lyme Bay Pinot Noir 2016
New Hall Bacchus Fumée 2016
Tuffon Hall Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
A brief chat with Alexander Taylor, IEWA Founder
I had the chance to have a quick chat with Alexander Taylor, IEWA Founder, after the judging was completed about the approach of the Independent English Wine Awards and his thoughts on this year's results.
Alexander Taylor: "The goal of the IEWA is to increase consumer awareness of English wine, because while the quality is undoubted, thrillingly there, beyond the wine press or the echo chamber of social media, there is still much work to do around awareness.
These results are so exciting in that they really show off the diverse capability of English wine. They show that we’re making compelling wine all over the country, still and sparkling, using a range of grapes and styles - a fantastically broad offering to consumers; Cornwall to Hampshire, Staffordshire to Sussex - medal winning wine is being made all across England. That’s invaluable when talking generally about produce in 'local’ terms. This is all happening at a vineyard near ‘you'! Of course, that’s where our friends at winecellardoor.co.uk come in.
What’s more, there is such a wide range of styles to chose from. English wine now means genuinely different still and sparkling wines, from our take on international styles, classic cuvées, Pinots Gris, Blanc and now even Noir (!), to lesser-known Ortega, Seyval Blanc, Kerner, Huxelrebe and of course our own emergent still wine messiah, Bacchus.
There is so much to celebrate in English wine at the moment - and the results of the IEWA this year simply reflect that. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with producers to help grab people's attention and tell the story."
John’s Top Six Picks from the Gold Medal Winners
REGION: Dorset RRP: £24.00
A delightfully textural and balanced rosé from Langham Estate, offering a soft, creamy mouthfeel, whilst a brisk, youthful acidity keeps everything in check, with the tang of cranberry and citrus.
Where to Buy:
REGION: Hampshire RRP: £29.50
Bursting with exuberant freshness and acidity, the Jenkyn Place Classic Cuvée is a real treat for the taste buds. The deeper yeasty notes and textural complexities made this my pick of the brut sparkling wines in the lineup.
REGION: Worcestershire RRP: £28.00
Proof that fine sparkling wine don't have to be made from Chardonnay & the Pinots, this innovative wine made from the lesser-known Kerner grape is no less textural and offers a fresh, appealing take on sparkling wine.
Where to Buy:
REGION: Devon RRP: £22.00
Lyme Bay's first red wine was perhaps the biggest surprise discovery at the IEWA. Ripe, juicy red berry flavours, delicate floral perfumed qualities and expertly integrated oak. More on this in my March Great British Wine Round-up on Wednesday!
REGION: Sussex RRP: £16.00
This wine never fails to impress, and is one of the country's finest examples of single varietal Pinot Gris. Gorgeous ripe, fleshy peach flavours, combined with a good bit of weight and a brilliant cutting acidity.
REGION: Suffolk RRP: £14.50
This Suffolk-made Bacchus is bursting with all the aromatic qualities you expect from the varietal. What impressed me was the lengthy finish, ending with zingy lime zest with grassy and mineral notes. Delightful.
Where to Buy: