IWSC Awards 6 Gold Outstanding Medals to Spain




Over the last ten years there has been an unfortunate proliferation of wine competitions, in my opinion. In the UK there’s scarcely a bottle on the shelves which doesn’t proclaim some sort of ‘gong’ won in some, not always prestigious, wine competition or other.


In an attempt to promote wine sales, of which I’m all in favour of course, such endeavours have in fact caused, at best, confusion or, at worst, apathy! How does the consumer know which medal actually matters, in terms of the quality of the wine they are about to purchase? Which competition is the more meaningful? Is a Bronze in one competition the equivalent of a Gold Star in another; or is there simply no comparison? And worst of all: is it possible to ‘buy’ a medal – does a huge advert in the competition’s literature, or a significant donation, ensure a Gold?


Well, in an effort to clear the mist surrounding the podium (and indeed the steps rising towards this pantheon), in my opinion (and that of many other commentators, I should add) there are three, international competitions that count, that really are prestigious. One of them is the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC), for whom I judge and for whom I act as Agent for Spain. So, nailing my colours to the barrel, I admit a vatted interest – but not, as far as I can make it so, any bias.


One of the prerequisites for judging wines has to be total objectivity. I like to think I maintain the same level of impartiality when talking about wine competitions as I do when judging wines for the IWSC. So, in the interests of transparency I’ve declared my interest and will also mention, albeit briefly, the other two ‘biggies’ – the International Wine Challenge; and the Decanter World Wine Awards – Boo! Sorry, couldn’t resist it!


I know, from my own experiences, that when a Gold is given there is a great feeling in the judging salon of the IWSC. Golds are hard to achieve, we are notoriously tight and marking is stringent, so when a wine achieves the necessary number of points, there is a real sense of pleasure. After all, we may be serious judges, but don’t forget that we all love wine!


Occasionally there is a feeling in the room that to simply give a Gold isn’t quite enough! Gold is presented when a wine finds a place within the 90 – 100 points bracket, which is praise indeed. However, once in a while, a wine that sits at the top of that bracket, in some way deserves more. These are the wines that, in Orwellian terms, are more equal than other Golds – these are the Gold Outstanding wines!


This year the Spanish Panel of the IWSC awarded six of these medals of honour! It was fascinating for me to hear that three of these truly excellent wines were in fact Sherries; two were Riojas; and one was a sparkling wine – not Cava, though, a wine about which I have written in this column. A sparkling wine from DO Rías Baixas!


So, Cork Talk, this week, and next, is about these demonstrably six excellent wines, as I was kindly sent a sample of each by the proud winning bodegas.


Bodegas Coto Redondo makes sensational sparkling wine. I wrote about the good fortune of the sparkling wine makers of Galicia when the Consejo Regulador of  DO Rías Baixas coincidentally announced that they had decided to permit Vinos Espumosos to carry the DO logo, at the same time as the spotlight was falling on alternative Spanish sparklers because of the internal strife at DO Cava.


Right place, right time – and didn’t Señorio de Rubios take advantage! Their  IWSC Gold Outstanding Señorio do Rubiós Condada do Tea Blanco Brut Nature is one of the best sparkling wines I’ve ever tasted, and that includes Champagnes as well as top of the range Cavas!


Made with the wonderful super-aromatic varieties: Treìxadura, Loureiro, Albariño and Torrontés, this wine has  an unforgettable fragrance, as one would expect, of peach, white flowers and apricot along with the usual yeasty panaderia notes of brioche, pastries and warm bread that is often associated with sparkling wine.

  coto redondo gold outstanding espumoso

Whilst elegant and graceful on the palate, there’s also a tantalising, almost sexy seductiveness that would entice Galician sailors just as well as any Mermaid! It has a super backbone of flavour too, with a long finish. They have a great range of still wines as well – a bodega to look out for: www.bodegas-cotoredondo.com.


Everybody all over the World who knows about wine, knows about Rioja. Fact. It is Spain’s most recognised brand and has consistently been fashioning some of the greatest Spanish wines ever produced. It still does so, as this medium sized area of production has been awarded not one, but two IWSC Gold Outstanding medals!


Times are changing in Rioja, there has been a metamorphosis, which in my opinion has been for the greater good, and some! There is more quality control than has been in the past and a new modern style Rioja jostles with traditional wines, resulting in a crucial competitiveness which keeps them all on their toes.


Historically it has been: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines that have made Rioja famous and to a lesser extent, Cosecha wines, which have seen either no oak ageing, or very little. Modernist winemakers in Rioja are now making wines that rally under a sort of banner (though there’s no rigid definition) known as Vinos D’Autor.


These are wines that don’t wholly subscribe to tradition, though they do keep within the rules and regulations boundaries. Wines that may have had, for example thirteen months in oak and a year in bottle, which would qualify them for Crianza status, but which do not carry the ‘Crianza’ logo, for fear of being stereotyped. They are a product of the winemakers passion, philosophy and imagination. Look out for them.


However don’t forgo traditional Rioja wines – the two IWSC Gold Outstanding Rioja wines are Gran Reservas!


More on these two wonderful wines, plus the Gold Outstanding Sherries next week!


Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and through www.colinharknessonwine.com and via Twitter @colinonwine

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