The fifth annual Sommelier Challenge wine
competition, staged the last weekend of September in San Diego, had a
decidedly international flair. A glance at the top awards confirms as
Six different countries – the United States, France, Italy,
Canada, Portugal and Greece – were represented among the Best of Show
winners, and France claimed the biggest prize of them all in the final
vote for Wine of the Year, which went to Moet & Chandon’s 1993 Grand
Vintage Collection Brut Champagne ($140).
Challenge brought together 16 certified sommeliers from around the
nation to evaluate a record total of 898 wines at a “blind” tasting in
which the identity of the producer and the name of the wine was
concealed until after awards had been assigned. The somms were divided
into panels and each panel tasted approximately 130 wines, sending its
favorites on to the championship round where best of class and best of
show awards were determined.
The 1993 Moet, as Wine of the Year,
also claimed title to the Best of Show sparkling wine award, prevailing
in the championships over Italy’s 1996 Ferrari Perle, Trento DOC ($42)
and Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose ($36) from the Napa
Valley side of the Carneros district. All three sparkling wines were
exquisite, but the Moet was simply stunning, and remarkably fresh
despite its 20 years of age.
In the finals Moet faced another
20-year-old, the Taylor Fladgate 20-Year-Old Aged Tawny ($54.99) from
Portugal’s Douro Valley, winner of Best of Show fortified wine, but
neither the Port nor any of the other six finalists were a match for the
dramatic impact of the Champagne.
There were two ties in the
best-of-show voting prior to the final vote for wine of the year.
Italy’s Castello di Gabbiano 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva ($22) and the
Napa Valley’s Black Stallion 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) finished in a
dead-heat in the vote for Best of Show red wine, and Canada’s 2008
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine, Niagara Peninsula ($80) and Virginia’s
Barboursville 2008 Malvaxia Reserve Passito ($31.99) tied in the Best of
Show dessert wine category.
Best of Show white wine went to the
2012 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Reserve ($25) from New York’s Finger
Lakes region and Best of Show rose was taken by the 2012 Falkner Winery
Rosato, Temecula Valley ($15.99). The Greek Liqueur Pilavas Tentura
Liqueur ($24) won the Best of Show spirits award, but was ineligible for
the wine-of-the-year vote.
For full results, go to www.SommelierChallenge.com.