A wine competition offers several rewards, including confirmation of just how good some of your favorite wines are (at least in the eyes and palates of others) and, even more importantly, the opportunity to discover some wines you might never have encountered otherwise. That certainly happened this year when 20 South Florida sommeliers gathered to judge the 2013 Best in Glass Wine Challenge. Those of us on the sidelines who got to eavesdrop on their deliberations new immediately when there was a wine to check out, for better or worse.
At one point I heard one judge say to a panel member, “Try wine number 5 again will you – that trigged my gag reflex.” Now, normally, you wouldn’t ask a friend to taste something you yourself found to be terrible but even allowing for slight exaggeration, this was a perfectly collegial request, a reality check if you will by one highly trained judge still wanting to be sure it was the wine and not the palate that fell short of expectation.
Of course, I ran back to the bottle stash and tasted the possibly offending wine, and while it wasn’t quite as bad as the judge intimated it might be, I have to admit, the wine didn’t make it to my post-Challenge shopping list. Some other wines did, however. Perhaps the most surprising Gold Medal winner (here is the entire list of medal-winning wines) was a bright and rather deeply colored rosé. As a fan of rosé wine, I was pleased to discover how many of the sommeliers also were particularly excited about tasting rosé – we all agreed as a category rosés don’t get the respect they deserve, a carryover from the popularity of insipid, overly sweet “White” Zinfandel.
A judge snaps a photo of a particularly impressive lineup of Rosés
at the 2013 Best in Glass Wine Challenge
There were no white zins submitted to the judging this year, and the rosés we did have were dry and for the most part, exciting and particularly appropriate to our penchant for dining al fresco in Florida. I have to admit, the group of wines was beautiful to look at as well. The big, or BIG, surprise was the hard to pronounce but easy to taste Domeniul Coroanei Hope Rosé 2011, a last minute entry to the wine challenge from Romania. Didn’t know Romania produced wines? Many of the sommeliers knew they made wine but hadn’t seen them in Florida before, so this was a welcome surprise. And the fact that the wine is delicious didn’t hurt! I expect this will show up on several wine lists during Best in Glass Month beginning March 15 – we’ll regularly update a list of what participating restaurants are pouring throughout Best in Glass Month.
I loved this wine – I love the story of an unknown wine finding success (and how providential it is called Hope!), and most of all I like finding a wine that is reasonably priced and tastes so good. The challenge with a rosé is getting enough flavor into the glass without losing the delicacy of aroma and flavor, and this wine succeeds admirably. Look for it, coming soon to a wine list near you. Two more wines worth mentioning that I hope show up on Best-in-Glass lists are the wonderfully juicy and extremely food friendly Eroica Riesling, made in Washington State by the Loosen team that has made so many great wines in Germany, where Riesling gets the respect it deserves. Too often in the New World Riesling is made in a sweet style with diluted flavors and not enough mineral notes to give it complexity, but this wine is a great package of flavor, complexity and the crisp acidity that lets it pair with many foods.
Another surprise in the results is a wonderful Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba from Northern Italy. The sommeliers weren’t surprised they liked Barbera, but they were pleasantly taken aback that this one combines quality a low enough price to be considered for pouring by the glass. This is a wonderfully integrated wine – it has tannin for good depth and complexity but it’s balanced with a respectable amount of fruit to give us a wine that is very versatile.
There were many other surprises at this year’s Best in Glass, and I’ll profile some of those in future blog posts.