It was another year of changes at the Six Nations Wine Challenge, with Canada entering for the first time, and two new faces at the judging tables. They were Canadian judge Christopher Waters and our new USA representative, Jon Bonné. Both fitted into the competition seamlessly, and both achieved plenty of success with their wine selections.
As you may know, each judge has the opportunity to invite 100 of the best wines (as he sees it) from his own country. The USA of course has a larger wine industry than any of the other countries, while Canada is somewhat smaller, but both came away with accolades.
It is a humbling experience to be involved in this competition – both as a judge and as a selector. Nothing can be taken for granted. A selection which has already won mountains of accolades in its own country cannot be assumed a certain award-winner here. While there is a remarkable degree of agreement among the six judges, their disparate backgrounds to some extent conspire against unanimity of opinion.
One trophy wine about which we agreed to an extent I hadn’t witnessed before, was the Stark-Conde 2015 Field Blend, a roussanne, chenin, verdelho, viognier from South Africa. This wine scored three first placings, two seconds, and an eleventh. Every judge rated it, and this is a very good sign, but such a near-unanimous high ranking is extremely rare.
Not far behind it was New Zealand’s Akarua 2014 Bannockburn Pinot Noir, which won its class with two first placings, a second, a third, a tenth and a single no-ranking. In a big class (of 50 wines), that was a clear favourite – winning by the length of the straight, as they say at the racetrack.
But it’s probably invidious to single out specific wines, as there were so many excellent wines, and the margins between winner and runner-up, or between a medal and no medal, were often slim.
We all look forward to a return bout next year.
So please, in your respective countries, spread the word about the Six Nations Wine Challenge. It really is a worthwhile and indeed unique testing ground for fine wine.