NOffLA Christmas Wine Show & Gold Star Awards 2010-11

Winning a “Gold Star Award” is a distinctive accolade for a wine - marking it out as being of excellent quality. Martin Maloney reports from this year's annual awards.

Mackenway Distributors swept the board at the 2010-11 Gold Star Awards, winning three out of the 15 Gold Star Award categories. The awards were announced as part of the tenth Irish Wine Show, now the Christmas Wine Show, held at The Pavillion at Leopardstown Racecourse on 28 September. The show proved an enormous success with the highlight of the day being the presentation of the Gold Star Awards by NOffLA chairperson, Evelyn Jones.

Mackenway leads the way

The success of Mackenway Distributors included winning the much coveted ‘Wine of the Year 2010’ award and Overall Award Winner, for Museum Real Reserva 2004 and the equally prestigious ‘White Wine of the Year 2010,’ for Shoofly Chardonnay 2008. This success is built on its previous success in winning the overall award of Wine of the Year last year, when Mackenway’s Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé A.C. ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008 won the 2009 top award, while the distributor was also responsible for the 2009 White Wine of the Year and Red Wine of the Year.

In winning the Wine of the Year Award for Musuem Real Reserva 2004, Mackenway Distributors have clearly produced a wine that is exceptional. This wine was chosen from the 15 category award winners as being the most outstanding wine choice for the 2010 awards. This wine was the clear selection from amongst more than 600 wines that were submitted to NOffLA for consideration amongst the Gold Star Awards for 2010.

Superb wines at superb prices

Winning a “Gold Star Award” is a distinctive accolade for the featured wines and also provides a strong marketing platform – particularly in the all-important pre-Christmas selling period. In announcing the Gold Star Awards, NOffLA chairperson, Evelyn Jones, pointed to the key role in communicating the variety of excellent wines available in Ireland, at different price points: “The awards are categorised by price and so have gained a reputation, over the past nine years, for being the essential guide for selecting great wines at any price. There is sometimes a misconception that the higher the price, the better the quality of wine. But, four of NOffLA’s Gold Star winners retail at under €8 so we are confident that consumers will be able to pick up some superb wines, whether they want to spend €7.99 or €19.99.”

These awards genuinely represent the very best of what is available across the independent off-trade in Ireland. What is distinctive about these awards is that they are the selection of the very best according to wine distributors, wine retailers and wine writers. As former NOffLA chairman, Jim McCabe, explained previously: “The tasters have no idea what wines they are tasting, or by whom they have been submitted. So this really would appear to reflect the importance of the pre-selection process of wines by wholesalers, before they are submitted to NOffLA. More and more wholesalers are spending a huge amount of time on this selection every year so, for those who do not take the time to pre-select, I do recommend that this is an area on which you should concentrate”.

Investing in Christmas

Time spent at the Christmas Wine Show is a great investment. The opportunity to meet suppliers in one place, on one day, can save independent retailers so much time and money. A visit to the Irish Wine Show is always enjoyable, educational and profitable. For some visitors, they are considering updating their wine range; others take the opportunity to taste some of the best fine wines on the market today; other NOffLA members may be tempted to expand their range into areas in which they are not strong; or perhaps those attending simply want to be one of the first to taste the winners of the Gold Star Awards! There are many opportunities at the show, but the main benefit for those who attended this year’s show is that it is about improving one’s business, and ultimately profitability. Having the chance to taste from an incredible selection of wines, including some great new vintages, it is the perfect place to meet new suppliers and deal with existing ones. This year’s attendees got to meet them in a relaxed and open environment and discuss the specific needs of their business – a really worthwhile experience.

Expert selection panel

Evelyn Jones expressed the gratitude of all those attending the Irish Wine Show to those who had helped to select the winning wines.

In particular, the NOffLA chairperson expressed the association’s thanks to master of wine, Jane Boyce and wine writer Mary Dowey for conducting the final stage of the blind tasting for the 2011 Gold Star Awards.

Wine consultant, Catherine Griffith was joined by 15 NOffLA members holding WSET Diploma and Higher Certificate holders gathered in Dublin on 11 August to blind taste wines from across the globe to establish which of them should be considered for a Gold Star Award for 2010/11. Thanks are due to:

:: Pat Carroll, Gibneys, Malahide;
:: David Cope, Samuel C. Cope Ltd., Castledermot;
:: Ruth Deveney, Deveney’s Off-Licence, Dundrum;
:: Niall Finn, Higgins Off-Licence, Clonskeagh;
:: Evelyn Jones, The Vintry, Rathgar;
:: Andrew Kinsella, Bin No. 9, Goatstown;
:: David Lonergan, The Vintry, Rathgar;
:: Jim McCabe, McCabe’s Off-Licence, Mount Merrion Avenue;
:: Cathal McHugh, McHugh’s Off-Licence, Malahide Road, Artane;
:: Niav McNamara, Shiel’s Londis, Malahide;
:: Ann Moran, Gibneys, Malahide;
:: Maria Moylan, Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants, Dublin;
:: Niamh O’Callaghan, Deveney’s Off-Licence, Rathmines;
:: Gary O’Donovan, O’Donovan’s Off-Licence Group, Cork;
:: John Shiel, Shiel’s Londis, Malahide.

Working in pairs, each wine submitted was blind tested, with marks awarded under the headings of appearance, smell, taste and value for money. Then having short-listed three entries in each category and tested them a second time the selections were assessed by master of wine, Jane Boyce and wine writer Mary Dowey.

In thanking all of those who assisted in the assessment process, the NOffLA chairperson underlined both the importance and the size of the task undertaken. “Selecting just 15 wines from over 600 was an incredibly challenging task.  However, the level of interest and the number of submissions tangibly demonstrate the credibility and standing of these awards, not just at an industry level but more importantly, amongst consumers”.

Each of the winning wines will now be sold in NOffLA member outlets and will be recognisable by distinctive award symbols on each bottle. In the pre-Christmas period NOffLA members will promote the Gold Star Awards 2010/11 Collection as ideal Christmas gifts, in a variety of special gift packs.

Working in partnership

The Irish Wine Show could not be a reality without the partnership of the independent off-trade and their suppliers.
The awards are a valuable opportunity for our members and equally importantly for more and more suppliers. The National Off-Licence Association is keen to underline the effort made by distributors, who ensure that the latest vintages are submitted for the awards, and are finding that they benefit the most because they are in the best position to ensure that adequate supplies of the award winning wines are in stock and are promoted in our shops. In particular, NOffLA is very pleased that a number of suppliers are now highlighting the awards by producing special labels which allow customers to easily identify them.
It is also important to point out that Christmas Wine Show is one of the important initiatives that allows independent retailers to work together with suppliers to further enhance the great business success story that the Irish wine market undoubtedly is. It is important that NOffLA members acknowledge the importance of this ongoing partnership by supporting our associate members who supported the association in this instance:

• Ampersand
• Barry & Fitzwilliam
• Bulmers
• Cassidy Wines
• Diageo
• Edward Dillon & Company
• Findlater Wine & Spirit Group
• Gilbeys
• Gleeson Wines
• Heineken Ireland
• Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard
• Molson Coors Ireland
• Mackenway Distributors Ltd
• Noreast Beers
• Richmond Marketing
• Taserra Wine Merchants

The winning collection

Wine of the Year:
Museum Real Reserva 2004 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

White Wine of the Year:
Shoofly Chardonnay 2008
(Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

Old World White:
Under €8:    Segada Fernão Piers, Arinto & Chardonnay 2009 (Richmond Marketing)
Under €14:  Chablis A.C. ‘Le Finage’ 2009 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)
Under €20:  Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo 2008 (Cassidy Wines Distribution Ltd.)

New World White:
Under €8:    Odd Socks Semillon Chardonnay Chenin Blac 2009 (Taserra Wine Merchants)
Under €14:  Shoofly Chardonnay 2008 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)
Under €20:  Saint Clair Marlborough Riesling 2007 (Findlater Wine & Spirit Group)

Under €15:  Chateau de Sours Rosé 2009 (Gleeson incorporating Gilbeys)

Old World Red:
Under €8:    Longue-Dog Grenache Syrah 2008 (Gleeson incorporating Gilbeys)
Under €14:  Masi Comporiorin, Rosso del Veronese IGT 2006 (Findlater Wine & Spirit Group)
Under €20:  Museum Real Reserva 2004 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

New World Red:
Under €8:    Luis Felipe Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Richard Marketing Ltd)
Under €14:  Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2007 (Findlater Wine & Spirit Group)
Under €20:  Mr Riggs The Gaffer Shiraz 2008 (Taserra Wine Merchants Ltd)

Sparkling / Champagne:
Under €25:    Il Cortigiano Prosecco NV (Gleeson incorporating Gilbeys)
Under €60:    Pommery Brut Royal NV (Cassidy Wines Distribution Ltd)

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