Value shines at NOffLA Gold Stars

Real value is to be found among the NOffLA Gold Star Award winners this year, writes Helen Coburn

This year’s Noffla Gold Star Wine Awards saw about 600 wines sampled, with importers Mackenway capturing two of the top awards. Museum Real Reserva 2004 was dubbed wine of the year and they are also agents for Shoofly Chardonnnay 2008 which was white wine of the year.

By the time you read this, lots of the starred wines will have been sampled so we’ve had a quick tasting of some of the other finalists. One of the finest among Old World wines under €20 – was a model Sancerre, Paul Prieur 2009 (Mackenway). Length of finish and breadth of flavours were conspicuous here, with lovely balance of alcohol and acid – great wine for fish or simply cooked white meats. Of New World whites under €8, False Bay Chenin Blanc 2009 (Gleeson/Gilbeys) is a true snip, being quite in the French classic style with lovely touches of green apple fruit.

It’s not easy to find a drinkable red wine for under €8. A tenner is a much better cut-off point, if only consumers would resign themselves to it. Despite that, the new world finalists for under €8 all made reasonable drinking, with Antares Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Ampersand) having nicely defined fruit and was a great turkey dinner wine at an excellent price.  However, when it came to wines under €20, I thought the old world beat the socks off the new, offering three wines of real character and drinking readiness. The winner, Real Museum 2004 (Mackenway) had a lovely earthiness to its evolved fruit but also very likeable was Portia Ribera del Duero 2004 (Gleeson/Gilbey), which had still youthful fruit, with nicely supporting structure – both wines would work well with game or turkey Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2002 (Irish Distillers) was closer to its peak but its very enjoyable soft summer fruits, laced with spice and coconut, would make it a lovely wine just to sip by the fireside.

Of sparklers, Champagne Jacquart 1996 was just about perfect – fresh, intense and lengthy, with elegant apple fruit and lingering citrus beneath. Jacob’s Creek Blanc de Blanc nv was sampled immediately afterwards and, amazingly, wasn’t overwhelmed by the power of the champagne. Lively green fruit showed through, revealing a bubbly that’s very well concentrated for a price of around €15.

While it must have been difficult to select winners among so many appealing contenders, the bright side is that at each price point there was plenty to talk about and evidence that, even in these tough times, it’s possible to deliver good value to the consumer.

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