Wed 05 Jun 2013

Wine Champions 2013: News From The Tasting Room


There is now less than a week to go until the 2013 Wine Champions are unveiled.

Wine Champions candidates are all tasted under strict blind conditions.

Wine Champions candidates are all tasted under strict blind conditions.

For 13 years, the annual crop of Wine Champions has provided the inspiration for Society members’ summer wine racks. They are the victors of a huge blind-tasting exercise carried out by The Society’s buyers, showcased in a perennially popular and, dare we say, hotly anticipated selection.

The fundamental aim of the Championship tastings is to find the best of the best from our range for enjoying now. (Or as one taster put it, nose firmly in glass at the time, ‘distinguishing between the competent and the sexy’!)

I was lucky enough to join the buying team and fellow scribe Janet Wynne Evans for this year’s tastings. In 17 sessions, we put no fewer than 534 wines through their paces: 68 Bordeaux blends, 61 pinot noir and gamay wines, 40 dessert and fortified wines, 62 Rhône varieties, 93 Mediterranean reds, 42 sauvignons, semillons and blends of the two, 82 aromatic whites, 43 chardonnays, 21 rosés and 22 sparkling wines.

The rules are the same today as they were in the very first Championship back in the year 2000 and are, quite rightly, rather strict.

Society buyer Sebastian Payne MW

Society buyer Sebastian Payne MW

The wines’ identities must remain secret until their official unveiling, but I have been permitted to divulge a few pieces of news from the tasting room to whet members’ appetites ahead of next week:

As head of buying Tim Sykes mentioned in April, particular successes included pinot noir and chardonnay, both from Burgundy and elsewhere, and, hearteningly, for our Society and Exhibition-label wines.

I am also able to reveal the welcome and triumphant return of sauvignon blanc this year. The lack of sauvignons in last year’s selection was a surprise; ultimately, the 2012 candidates were narrowly overshadowed by the stunning array of Mediterranean and aromatic whites against which they were pitted. This year is a different story though, and fans of the grape that has arguably become the G&T of our time will not be disappointed by the 2013 results.

A couple of eye-catching regional as well as varietal successes were also in evidence, and the Mediterranean Reds tasting was a particularly fruitful session in 2013. Look out for a very strong showing from Italy that reflects the country’s breathtaking regional diversity as much as its winemakers’ dexterity.

'And the winners are...?' Casting the votes at the end of a tasting session

‘And the winners are…?’ Pierre Mansour tots up the votes at the end of a tasting session

Tim also mentioned the £9–£15 price bracket as something of a sweet spot for value, but there are several spectacular under-£10 wines whose identities, when revealed, caused a great amount of excitement. On this front, there is much that I am impatient to tell you.

For instance, the identities of

• The under-£6 red that became the most successful champion in the entire 13-year history of Wine Champions, winning an unprecedented clean sweep of full marks from every taster.

• The under-£8 sherry that stole the fortified tasting with its remarkable, brain-boggling array of flavours (and for that matter the similarly priced sweet wine that impressed among grand cru classics at 10 times the price).

• The cheapest white in the offer that put several seasoned tasters in mind of a far more expensive ‘taste-alike’.

• And the grower that bagged a rare hat-trick of Champions (no mean feat when pitted against some 500+ opponents).

All will be revealed next week!

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter


  1. Tim Stockil says:

    Can’t wait! Can I order the under £6 red champion now?!!!

  2. John Westbrooke says:

    I shall certainly place an order for it asap!

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