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Andrew Campbell: Digging for gems among The Good, The Bad and The Glugly

'Some critics argue wine competitions can’t be relied upon as a measure of quality  - but in my experience they act as a very good indicator...

Andrew Campbell
Andrew Campbell

In my constant search for quality wine bargains I find myself wading through The Good, The Bad and The Glugly.

However, there are panels of experts who get together each year and test thousands of wines to pronounce judgement on the best and offer a ready-made guide to quality.

The marketing power of the big three competitions – the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) and the Decanter World Wine Awards – cannot be underestimated with retailers and wine makers keen to show off their medals in the hope of boosting sales.

At the London-based IWC,  judges – including top wine writer Oz Clarke – ‘blind taste’ around 10,000 wines to ensure fairness. The panel also includes several Masters of Wine which is considered the industry’s highest qualification and is a title held by less than 300 experts.

However wine tasting is, to a point, all a matter of taste and what judges may award gold in one competition may only attract a silver or a bronze from experts in another.

Some critics argue wine competitions can’t be relied upon as a measure of quality however in my experience they act as a good indicator – with winners usually offering excellent balance and clear flavours.

Tesco was recently named this year’s IWC Own Label Wine Range of the Year and Direct Merchant of the Year. So having written about  Tesco Finest’s excellent IWC Gold winner Vina Mara Rioja Reserva 2008 last week, I decided to dive into a few more of their gold and silver medal own label offerings.

Tesco, with its vast buying power, has enlisted some of the world’s top producers to make its own label range – and the Block 13 white and red are no different. Made by one of Australia’s best high-end wine-makers, D’Arenberg, the silver medal Tesco Finest Block 13 Fleurieu Peninsula Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre 2011 is a stunning southern Rhone blend from South Australia.

The nose is intense cherry with hints of blackcurrant, green leaf, spice and oak. Plum dominates the taste up front with a hint of sweet fruit before the savoury backbone of black pepper and spice kicks in. Juicy is an overused wine adjective but this is seriously juicy with clean aromas and flavours and is good value at £9.99.

At £1 less you have the silver-medal Block 13 McLaren Vale Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne 2011 . The blockbuster nose is packed with aromas of super-ripe tropical fruit and peach. The flavours of lime and tropical fruit with hints of orange and apricot are balanced by a lively acidity.

Tesco Finest Pazo Torrequintans Albarino 2011, made by Bodegas Martin Codax in north-west Spain’s Rias Baixas region, also scooped silver and is a stunning example of this fashionable varietal. The nose is fragrant and intense with aromas of apricot and pineapple and hints of honeysuckle, apple and lemon. The flavours are similar with a touch of mineral and oak and a long dry finish. This is a beautifully rich and balanced wine that’s £7.99 a bottle but like many of the Finest range is frequently on offer.

Tesco Finest Pouilly Fume 2010 scooped IWC Gold and Great Value despite its £11.99 price-tag. Made by Fournier in an area of the Loire Valley famed for its sauvignon blanc, it has a zesty gooseberry and herb nose. The taste is rich and crisp with  lime, fennel and herb flavours with a touch of gunflint and minerality. The natural acidity is well-balanced.

The silver-medal Tesco Finest Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2012 was just £4.99 until August 13 –  rising to £6.76. Another blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre, it wafts dark cherry and berry aromas. The taste is laden with dark cherry backed up by spice and tannin.

So to the last course. Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon 2008 , made by New South Wales producer De Bortoli, didn’t only win IWC Gold but also scooped a Trophy for Great Value Sweet Wine.

 At £6.79 for a half bottle, it is concentrated orange and apricot marmalade in a glass that coats the mouth with flavours that linger on and on. It is a superb bargain for anyone with a vaguely sweet tongue.

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