Contrary to Popular Opinion, We Are Not Really "World Class" This Year

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Washington%20Wine%20Highway%20display.JPGAh yes, we say, full of ignorant bravado, our wines are the best there is. World class, to coin a phrase. Well, reality check, folks: not this year. Over 9,000 wines from around the world were entered in the most prestigious competition of them all, the Decanter World Wine Awards, and the judges (also from around the world) narrowed them down by region, by grape variety and by price. Of the top two dozen, not a one from the United States. The winners: 6 each from South Africa, and France, 5 from Australia, 3 from Spain, 2 each from Italy, Portugal and Argentina, and one for Germany: the world's best pinot noir. Seriously.

Now, before you go foaming off about this British magazine's anti-American prejudice, we'd like to point out that the chairman of the competition is none other than Steven Spurrier, the respected wine merchant who, some 30 years ago, put American wine on the map with a blind tasting of Napa versus French wine. (It's the "true story" behind the dreadful movie, Bottle Shock, still playing locally.) Under Spurrier's direction, some 200 professional wine tasters (many of them Masters of Wine) participated in regional 25 panels to evaluate the wines submitted.

The US panel, chaired by Stephen Brook, a wine writer with 25 years of experience, awarded its regional trophy to Chateau Ste. Michelle's Canoe Ridge 2006 Chardonnay, which had also been named the best "over £20 American chardonnay. (Joel Butler, MW, Ste. Michelle's director of wine education, served on two of the French panels.) Eight Washington wineries won gold medals, along with four from Oregon. Gordon Brothers of Pasco, whose syrah was named the best in the world two years ago, won only a commendation for its red blend this time around. The big Washington winner was Magnificent Wine Company with four medals; more about them in an upcoming post.

The other stunning news: South Africa's medal count. Best Rhone blend, best Bordeaux blend, best sauvignon blanc, best chardonnay and so on. We mentioned this news to a local wine rep, a lively and distinguished French lady. "Ils sont tombé sur la tête!" she exclaimed. "They're nuts!" No, seriously. That's what was in the bottle, that's what was in the glass. South Africa is the fastest-growing sector of UK wines, up 13 percent last year in a stagnant market, and the awards show why: it's good wine.

Says Spurrier: "The results provide complete validity for the producers and the consumers." In other words, take the list of winners along when you go shopping.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on September 4, 2008 8:00 AM.

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