A real buzz surrounded the release of Mouton Rothschild’s 2014 vintage on 28th April – not least because the opening price is lower than any other physical vintage of Mouton’s. At only a few pounds per bottle more than the 2013 , which is also still in barrel, it’s exciting news, and offers some hope following the recent murmurings that En Primeur would cease to exist if no enthusiasm could be generated about this year’s campaign.
When you buy a wine to drink, do you ever find yourself gravitating towards one that has a little sticker on the label indicating that it has won an award? Lots of people do this – in the same way that they will tend to choose the half-price wines in the supermarket assuming they are getting a bargain, they will identify an ‘award-winning’ wine as better than the alternatives on offer. But there’s often more to that little sticker than meets the eye.
The International Wine Challenge & Decanter
Some awards are quite prestigious, such as those given out annually by the IWC (International Wine Challenge). It’s very desirable for the winemaker to display the IWC sticker on their wine and will greatly enhance their sales, so the wine that wins one of the IWC’s awards such as the ‘Argentinian Red Trophy’ will have faced some pretty tough competition. Decanter’s awards are similarly well-regarded. Wines which are up for consideration are tasted by a panel of wine industry insiders with ‘expert’ palates and allocated accordingly. So, surely it makes sense to choose a wine that has received the seal of approval by expert tasters rather than one that hasn’t?
What would Jancis do?
Well, what are the alternatives? We could make the decision to ask a wine merchant’s advice, or buy online and put our faith in a short description of the wine, or we can look for suggestions from a particular critic like Jancis Robinson or Jamie Goode. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting some guidance when it comes to buying wine, it is a very personal thing. Although what one person liked, no matter how revered they are in the wine industry, won’t necessarily be to every consumer’s taste.
There is some snobbery about wine awards though, many who are dismissive of them are quick to point out that wines that genuinely are ‘the best of the best’ are not entered into competitions because the producers can sell their wines without the endorsement of a sticker on the label. There’s some truth in that certainly, but for the others it is a great way to promote their product to a greater audience and to improve their credibility.
Awards worth winning
If it is just guidance you are after, that little sticker awarded by the IWC or Decanter tells you two things – the wine has been entered into the competition, so the winemaker thinks it is good enough to win. And secondly, the panel of tasters, many of them highly credible Masters of Wine, journalists and household names in the industry, agreed that it deserved their seal of approval. So don’t be afraid to plump for the award winner – it is likely to be a much better buy than the cut-price supermarket wine that appears to be a bargain, but ultimately tends to disappoint.
Investment in fine wine purchased strictly for investment might be best handled by an experienced wine merchant, but even so it is important to understand the market and the varieties. A good place to begin learning to appreciate the different types of wine is by learning and tasting. You will not only discover your own palate, or what you like best, but you will understand the qualities to look for in investment wines. While you may not have been born with this talent, you can certainly learn it.
Start with a Sniff
Wine professionals are experienced in sniffing the wine to discern the subtle threads woven into the complex aroma. Your nose is the key here. Just try to hold your nose when swallowing some wine and you’ll notice how muted the flavors are. So how to begin? Begin by stopping everything you’re doing or saying. Shut out any distraction and focus on how the wine looks, how it smells, its
flavor and its finish. It doesn’t take long to make all those notes, but it does require a degree of concentration. In your tasting, choose the wine’s main flavor and the scent in each of the wines. Begin with the basic characteristics, which should include the varietal grapes, and go on to learning to distinguish wines coming from the best wine producing areas of the world. Before long you will be able to tell the good wine from the less desirable.
Wine Regions of the World
After you’ve rated your wine, find out if it is New World or Old World. New World wines comes from one of the newer areas of wine production, including America, Chile and Australia. Old World wines come from areas of the world known for their long histories of producing wine, such as along the Mediterranean or Europe, including Italy, France and Germany.
Whatever you sip, take a minute to learn its history and appreciate its heritage. Whether you are buying to enjoy or for investment, it is worthwhile to pay attention to its complexity and characteristics while savoring the moment.