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Whitley On Wine: Sommelier Challenge 2013 Results
By Robert Whitley
Oct 7, 2013
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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 much.

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).

The Sommelier 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.