Our special correspondent Sam Rice was proud to have been invited to be an Associate Judge at the IWSC where, as luck would have it, English and Welsh wines were being judged. How did she find the experience?



I’ve so much to tell.  Sadly I can’t as I fear I would be sabred at dawn if I do, but suffice to say it was a blind(ing) tasting.

As you can imagine, it was extremely humbling to sit in a room with a combined total of more than 100 years of drinks industry experience, including two MWs who made me realise that I have a very long way to go on my wine journey!  Then, to be presented with the cream of English and Welsh wines; well it was a pretty good day at the office.

I thought most of the wines showed very well and it has cemented my belief that UK wines firmly deserve their place on the International Stage.

After my judging experience I got to thinking about still wines and why, when the UK is clearly producing excellent still wines, they continue to remain in the shadow of sparkling wine as far as the consumer is concerned.  It’s telling that at my local Waitrose there is a pretty decent local wines section but there is not one still wine.  Pity.  I’ve recently tasted delightfully fresh Bacchus, rich sweet Ortega, Madeleine Angevine that was as dreamy as the name implies and Pinot Gris that could hold its head up high in Alsace.  It’s not easy to find them though, I’m lucky as I get to attend tastings and of course I am interested enough to seek them out.  Not to mention living near the English Wine Centre in East Sussex.

We seem to be a little behind our continental cousins in celebrating our traditionally planted varieties, perhaps because we don’t have such a long history of winemaking?  I was in Northern Italy recently and it was all about Lagrein, Teroldego and Nosiola, traditional varieties finally finding their place in wider markets because, with better winemaking, they are reaching their true potential. We too have lesser known varieties that respond well to our cool, wet corner of the globe that with love and attention can produce fantastic wines.

The future of our wine industry does not lie in huge volume exports or supermarket bogofs so it seems to me that rather than chucking all our grapes in the champagne basket press we should be focusing on what makes us different as a wine growing region, other than the truly terrible weather of course!