The 2020 Sommelier Wine Awards celebrates wines from across the globe

The results of the Sommelier Wine Awards 2020 are in, revealing the competition’s most diverse line-up of winning wines to date. The UK’s leading on-trade wine competition has seen some of the fastest-growing trends in the industry come to light, with stand-out entries from categories including orange wines, Semillon and Japanese wines, with a record year for Ribera del Duero and less prominent sparkling wines.

Stand-out regions in this year’s competition included Spain’s Ribera del Duero, with a record-year of 37 awards and 80% of entrants taking home a medal. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc producers, namely from Leyda Valley, were unexpected stars amongst the judges, commended for their refined style, which stood head and shoulders above the other Sauvignon Blancs tasted from Chile.

As well as Chilean wine, many other New World wines enjoyed the spotlight. This year saw Japanese wine represented for a second year, with even more entries this year, and every Koshu taking home a medal, including one Gold. Red wines from Australia and Argentina made a name for themselves by experimenting with different grape varietals and blends, regarded highly amongst the judges for moving away from oak and often high price points. As a result, they received more Gold medals than ever before.

Although quality Prosecco and Champagne continue to perform well, this year saw less prominent fizzes on the rise, with Crémants, frizzantes, Franciacortas, Cavas and New World sparkling wines, all performing extremely well.

Sicilian wines were praised by judges for their quality and affordability, with a third of the red wines entered at under £10. Greek reds have increased considerably in quality according to the judges, with the country receiving almost 50% more Gold medals since 2019. Wine entries from Alsace and Germany were applauded for their compatibility with food. These two categories are always big hits amongst the judges, leaving them thirsty for even more entries.

Grapes performing fantastically well at this year’s awards included New World Semillon, with over 85% of entries receiving a medal. Many other unique trends emerged from the awards this year and are expected to grow in the coming months, including orange wine, now a category in its own rights for a second year, was very warmly welcomed by the judges, paving the way for modern and interesting wines that have not previously been frequently represented in the on-trade. A huge trend across beer and spirits, the no and low category has begun to gain traction within wine, with the competition showing that it is moving in the right direction and the trend expected to see further growth in response to consumer appetite.

Speaking about the 2020 awards, Micaela Martins Ferreira, Competition Director, commented: “A huge congratulations to all our medal winners. Year-on-year there is such a high standard of wines, it’s so fantastic to see entries spanning all corners of the globe, and with diversity, this year, really shining through.

“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the industry, and when it bounces back, which I’m sure it will, there is an incredibly strong line up of wines available to the hospitality sector. I look forward to seeing these trends develop over the next 12 months and in particular, can’t wait to see some of the exceptional wines tasted during this year’s SWA appearing on wine lists across the UK.”

SWA, now in its fourteenth year, is judged by Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wines and some of the best names in the world of wine, including Director of Wine at Ten Trinity Square, Jan Konetzki; Wine Development Manager at Le Cordon Bleu, Matthieu Longuère MS; and Director at Vinoteca, Charlie Young.

In light of the worldwide pandemic, the Sommelier Wine Awards will be donating £5,000 to The Drinks Trust – a charity which provides support, care and assistance to the drinks industry workforce, who need support now, more than ever.

All winning wines from the Sommelier Wine Awards 2020 can be found on www.sommelierwineawards.com

 

2020 Cognac Trend Predictions

Cognac continues to evolve globally given the interest in craft cocktails, particularly in pre-prohibition cocktails. With the United States being the first cognac market (102.4 million cognac bottles imported in 2019) it has diversified the many ways cognac can be consumed, from sipping it neat to using it as the base for trendy and originating cocktails. A recent study by Beverage Dynamics points to millennials spending up for premium spirits and cocktails. In the past 12 months, spirits priced $25 and up have increased in sales by 13.2%.

With millennials favoring the full imbibing experience—with an emphasis on ingredients — bartenders and stirrers are shifting with the trends.

COGNAC EDUCATORS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY SHARED TRENDS THEY CURRENTLY SEE AND PREDICT FOR 2020

LESS DRINKING, HIGHER QUALITY

Dan Nicolaescu, Beverage Director of Brandy Library and Copper and Oak (New York, NY)

It is my experience that, generally speaking, people are drinking less but of higher quality. I see interest in trying cognac growing steadily, especially towards neat pours. It seems that preferences steer toward cognacs with a lighter wood influence but fairly well developed, in the 10-25 years range.

As far as cocktails go, I can envision bartenders focusing on quality by using small quantities of high-quality old cognac as an accent in a drink. It can provide unique flavors to the final product and is also more financially sensible.

MODERN MIXOLOGY SIMPLIFIED

Miguel F. Lancha, ThinkGoodGroup Cocktail Director (Washington, DC)

One trend that I have seen working with cognac is younger bartenders are showing an interest in wanting to learn about it, whether it’s at a bar training session or an industry seminar.

The interest in classic cocktails has been around for a while now, but many bartenders are going back to being more flexible and creative with cocktails. I see an opportunity for guests to be more exposed to cognac by trying drinks that combine it with cool techniques. Bartenders are continuing to modify the textures and structures of drink components by clarifying, carbonating, making a slushy, etc. They’re doing it in a way that’s not in your face or over the top, which is intriguing guests and exposing them up to Cognac in cocktails.

PRESENTATION WITH LEVITY

Kellie Thorn, Hugh Acheson Restaurants Beverage Director (Atlanta, GA)

While we are still having a hard time getting guests to order cognac on its own the way they do whiskey, we are seeing a lot of cognac cocktails sell.

I think that the key to reaching a younger audience is presenting the spirit and category with some levity. I obviously love the heritage and tradition behind these spirits, but we should approach it with a little irreverence.

Split your pour of cognac neat with some amaro, think of more tropical applications, add it to your spritz build, and in general make cognac feel like something that doesn’t have to have a lot of pomp and circumstance around it to enjoy it.

LOWER-ABV COCKTAILS

Joseph Erhmann of Elixir, Elixir to Go and Cocktail Ambassadors (San Francisco, CA)

There is an opportunity for cognac to take advantage of its great flavor intensity by mixing shorter pours (.5-1 ounce) with light mixers, like the multitude of uniquely flavored tonics to make low- ABV drinks. I particularly like a VSOP with Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic and expressed lemon oil or a young, fruity VS with a dry grapefruit soda like Q Grapefruit.

https://www.cognac.fr/

 

 

Michelin Introduces Sustainable Gastronomy Symbol

The Michelin Guide has unveiled a new green clover symbol in its France guide to indicate restaurants with “commendable environmental practices”.

First revealed at the launch of the Michelin Guide France 2020 on 27 January, the new icon has been allocated to over 50 sustainable restaurants.

Among them is three Michelin-starred Mirazur in Menton which has two hectares of “permaculture vegetable gardens” and also has a zero-waste policy.

The symbol can be given to chefs whose restaurants have been awarded the plate, bib gourmand or 1-3 stars.

Also given the accolade was Parisian Restaurant David Toutain, which collaborates with smallholdings and local craftsmen and matches its food orders with future bookings in order to minimize waste. In addition, Septime, also based in the French capital, was praised for its sustainable food sourcing and its practice of sending all bio-waste to a vermicomposting center to be recycled.

In 2019, the MICHELIN Guide handed out Sustainability Awards to recognize chefs across several destinations rated by the guide, including Angel Leon of three-MICHELIN-starred Aponiente in Spain, Enda McAvoy of one-starred Loam in Ireland, and Heidi Bjerkan of one-starred Credo in Norway.

Commenting on the launch, Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, said: “Faced with constantly evolving challenges including production methods, sourcing and waste management, chefs are striving to improve their practices.

“Often, these initiatives combine the best of the knowledge of our predecessors with the creativity and innovation of chefs who are never short of ideas. The ambition of our approach is to amplify the scope of the good and ingenious practices of chefs by putting them in the spotlight.

“The ideas, methods, and know-how developed by these chefs will thus help raise awareness of an entire sector to its customers and the general population.”

The practices and achievements of those restaurants given a sustainability icon will be promoted via the Michelin Guide’s platforms throughout the year.

The list can be found here:

https://guide.michelin.com/mo/en/macau-region/macau/article/news-and-views/michelin-new-sustainable-gastronomy-icon

Powers Irish Whiskey Rebrands

Pernod Ricard targets “new generation” with a redesign of its Powers Irish whiskey brand.

The group’s Irish Distillers unit, which handles Powers, said last week that the design will “inspire a new generation” of Irish whiskey consumers. The overhaul includes a squatter bottle and a new label incorporating the diamond ‘P’ trademark, one of the first registered in Ireland.

Following the official launch of the rebranding Powers Gold Label in March, the update will be introduced across Powers Three Swallow and Powers John’s Lane from mid-2020 in the US and the rest of the world towards the end of the year. In Ireland, Powers Three Swallow and Powers John’s Lane will roll out in March. Powers Gold Label will be reviewed “in due course”, Irish Distillers said.

Conor McQuaid, CEO of the division, said: “Powers has been famous for its bold taste profile and character since the family distillery was established in 1791. We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”

 

Michelin Guide Acquires Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Michelin bought a 40% stake in the Wine Advocate back in 2017 and their full commitment to expanding into wine was realized this year. Nicolas Achard, CEO of Wine Advocate and as Managing Director of Michelin Experience Asia, announced last Friday in New York, with respect to full ownership, “We got to know each other for the past two years before we decided to complete the acquisition and we realized that Michelin and the Wine Advocate had the same culture in regards to the importance of their independence [from the restaurants/hotels and wineries they are reviewing].”

Achard further states that both companies also follow a rigorous methodology when it came to giving Michelin stars or Robert Parker Wine Advocate scores.  He goes on to say “Leading RPWA’s passionate teams is not only thrilling, but also an incredible opportunity to combine the strengths of the Michelin Guide and The Wine Advocate.”

The full integration would ensure, “long-term synergies between oenology and gastronomy through the pursuit of experiences based on food and wine pairing, as well as the creation of new digital content and services”.