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The Wine Gang
Best in Show 2012

by Tom Cannavan, 06/12

the wine gang During the London International Wine Fair in May 2012, The Wine Gang was charged with selecting the "Best in Show" wines.

Each member of the Gang (left to right: myself, Jo Simon, Ant Rose, Jane Parkinson and David Williams) spent days one and two of the Fair prowling the stands to taste as widely as possible and select six wines each to make up a shortlist of 30 wines. On the morning of day three, the 30 wines were assembled and re-tasted blind by the whole Gang to choose the winners.

At 1:00pm we announced our winners in front of a packed crowd of media and the wine trade, awarding four individual titles for the best red, white, sparkling and fortified wines, and announcing our overall winner as Best Wine of the Show 2012.

wine gang stand Though there was heated debate through the morning as we tasted the wines, the decision on the category winners and overall champion was unanimous. Best in Show went to the superb Blanc de Blancs from England made by Coates & Seely. We felt this was not only a great English wine, but a genuine example of a truly great sparkling wine in a world context. Accepting his award, Nicholas Coates of Coates & Seely said "We're very pleased and proud! It means a lot to us to receive this support and such an accolade from such a highly respected group of tasters." Meanwhile chief winemaker Peter Gago accepted the award on behalf of Penfolds for winning Best Red, claiming he would have The Wine Gang 'bottle sock' (used to conceal the identity of the wines before the announcement) framed and proudly displayed on the wall of Penfolds HQ. Congratulations to all the winners, and indeed, to all 33 wines that made it onto our tasting bench.

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The Best Wine of the Show

Coates & Seely, Blanc de Blanc 2007, England
The overall Winner and the Best Sparkling Wine of the Show, this has a beautifully poised, Chardonnay nose, a touch of biscuit, but taut, apple and citrus tang (English apples) with delicious bite, a real juicy, perfumed apple fruit on the palate and so much lemony tang and finesse. 94/100. See all stockists on

Best Red Wine

Penfolds, Cellar Reserve Mataro 2010, Australia
Chief winemaker Peter Gago seemed absolutely delighted to accept this award from Jane Parkinson. The wine has loads of deep, American oak spice and coconut, but has a perfumed, fragrant fruit character showing richness and pepper, plenty of garrigue too in a polished, svelte style. Long and deliciously creamy and ripe. 94/100. See all stockists on

Best White Wine

Waterkloof, Circle of Life White 2011, South Africa
Beautiful nose, a lot of almond and honey, ripe apples and the oak. Nutty, rich and textured on the palate, some roasted lemon fruit, but beautiful length and balance. Well managed oak, and superbly drinkable. 93/100. See all stockists on

Best Fortified Wine

Bodegas Hidalgo, La Gitana En Rama Sherry, Spain
Nutty, ozone, lemon and creamy quality, real sea-breeze freshness. Creamy, bone-dry, mineral freshness with salty, nutty flavours and a searingly dry finish with a flash of marmite, but so beautifully tangy. 93/100. See all stockists on

Finalists - RED

Domaine de Saint Ennemond, Brouilly 2011, France
Not in the ultra sappy style, with its lovely, bright, juicy but creamy ripe fruit. Beautifully balanced Beaujolais. 89/100. See all stockists on

Kavaklidere, Kalecik Karasi Prestige 2009, Turkey
Bright, rich, perhaps a touch chewy in the tannin and plenty of acidity that adds drinkability, but perhaps slightly short the finish in this company. 86/100. See all stockists on

Soter, Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir, Oregon
Slightly smoky cherry and dark berry fruit, with a fresh palate showing a bit of structure and complexity. Still youthful, impressive Pinot. 90/100. See all stockists on

Vinakras, Izbrani Teran 2011, Slovenia
Very vibrant colour, with a sappy, beetroot and Indian ink quality, meaty too. Lovely acidity that refreshes with its damson-skin bite. An honest, delicious wine. Good fruit. 88/100. See all stockists on

Liliac, Blue Moon Feteasca Negra/Merlot 2011, Hungary
A bit of smokiness, pepper and almost smoky bacon notes, deliciously juicy on the palate, with a sinewy tannin and acid structure, a touch of saline minerality, but the fruit sweetness is there. 91/100. See all stockists on

Benanti, Serra della Contessa Etna Rosso 2006, Italy
Big, hot, lightly baked berry fruit, with a hint of barnyard, lovely sense of baked earth terroir. Palate is dry, but has delicious fruit sweetness, with lovely acidity and intensity. 90/100. See all stockists on

Crossroads Winery, Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009, New Zealand
Nice, lightly lifted pepper and rosemary nose, a touch of meatiness - very northern Rhone-like Syrah. Lovely wine, balanced, perhaps doesn't quite have the definition and polish for tops marks, but delicious. 88/100. See all stockists on

Pitchfork Cabernet/Merlot 2010, Australia
Leafy green note, with a perhaps a touch too much green, but a nice sense of elegance and food-friendly dryness. 87/100. See all stockists on

Chateau Musar, Hochar 2005, Lebanon
Slight volatility, lifted, chunky fruit, very nice cherry bakewell character on the palate, slightly hot on the finish, but an idiosyncratic wine with loads of genuine character and typically Musar. 88/100. See all stockists on

Quinta da Dona, Bairrada Tinto 2009, Portugal
Reserved but intense nose, classically structured with a nice oak quality, the palate has good sweet fruit, some real finesse and very harmonious. Not hugely complex, but lovely stuff. 89/100. See all stockists on

G.D. Vajra, Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, Italy
Spicy, bright raspberry and red berry fruit character, quite a big, powerful wine with quite big tannins, a dry finish, very pure, very long, beautifully fresh but structured. 90/100. See all stockists on

M&S Ogier Le Temps est Venu 2010, France
Dark, liquorice and aniseed nose, a bit of meatiness, quite youthful and primary, not hugely complex, but has a rustic charm, and delicious open honesty. 87/100. See all stockists on

Domaine Tournon, Shays Flat Vineyard Shiraz 2009, Australia
Tomato leaf and pepper, with some creosote, and peppery Shiraz character, briary, ripe, lots of tannin and acid freshness. 90/100. See all stockists on

Humilitat, Priorat 2009,Spain
Focused, mineral nose, dense and meaty, big and chewy on the palate with smoky, bitter chocolate and plush black berry fruit. A touch of coffee and chunky gravelly, tannins. A big wine, but has a creamy plushness, even though the heat and almost raisiny ripeness is there. 91/100. See all stockists on

Fuedo di Santa, Tresa Frappato, Sicily, Italy
A little too reductive for comfort, a touch green, but an interesting nose. Juicy, interesting pasta-basher, and if the price is good, a nice food-friendly style. 86/100. See all stockists on

Finalists - WHITE

Cartanega, Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chile
Huge sugar snap pea nose, lots of asparagus and vivid punch. Pithy grapefruit palate, loads of good balancing acidity, deliciously fresh and long, poised and intelligent stuff. 90/100. See all stockists on

Cederberg, Chenin Blanc 2011, South Africa
More restrained, but still has vivacious punch and some of those herbal aromatics. A little bit pear droppy and cold-ferment character. 86/100. See all stockists on

Liliac, Blue Moon Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Romania
Sour pear confectionery character, with again that slightly saline note, but the choc-lime confectionery character, with a nice clean finish. 88/100. See all stockists on

Jako, Posip Brac 2011, Croatia
White pepper spice, fresh herbs and zesty with loads of citrus and a fresh, rounded, but crisply defined maritime character with a lick of minerality. 90/100. See all stockists on

Emiliano, Signos de Origen White 2011, Chile
Blast of asparagus and crunchy very ripe, with tropical fruit notes against toasty oak. Rich on the palate, with tropical, lychee and mango fruit. Substantial stuff with gorgeous power and a serious wine, and good acidity too. 90/100. See all stockists on

Puklavec, Furmint 2011, Slovenia
Very pretty, appealing aromas, with lemons and sunflower seeds, a touch of Gavi-ish quality and such a fresh palate, perhaps a touch light, but we love the freshness, clarity and flavour. 91/100. See all stockists on

Ailala, Treixadura Ribeiro 2010, Spain
Gently floral touches, a lot of citrus and touch of peachiness, apricot, but the palate is a little dilute perhaps. 86/100. See all stockists on

Marof, Lazski Riesling et tu Petrus 2011, Slovenia
Pear droppy, tanky, youthful nose, quite primary and fresh, but fresh and herby, crunchy apple fruitiness. 85/100. See all stockists on

Jean Orliac Loup y Es-Tu? Blanc 2011, France
Grapey, floral, stone fruits and some peachy fruit coming through. On the palate it has Viognier's apricot oiliness, with lovely sweet fruit powering through the mid palate and a fresh, crunching, vibrant finish. 90/100. See all stockists on


Vinya Leyda Pinot Noir Rosé 2011, Chile
Lovely dry, reducrranty and slightly briary, serious stuff with tannins, real grip and bags of Pinot character and flavour. 87/100. See all stockists on

Wirra Wirra, Mrs Wigley Moscato 2011, Australia
Ice cream and American cream soda, pretty nose, perhaps not as convincing on the palate, but crowd-pleasing, if a touch synthetic on close consideration. 84/100. See all stockists on

Tio Pepe, Fino Sherry En Rama, Spain
A more varnishy, nutty, super-fresh nose than our winning En Rama from Hidalgo, but we loved this too with its marmite, yeasty nose and wonderfully breezy and fresh smoky bacon flavour and tangy closing acidity. 92/100. See all stockists on

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