© 1996 JDM Enterprises
NWIWC CHAMPSby Jerry D. Mead
The first major wine competition of the year to announce its awards is the New World International Wine Competition, of which I am the chief judge, which in this case means I assign and supervise the other judges. I only vote on the champions and to break ties.
The New World is an interesting concept. It is open to wines produced anywhere in North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. And the entries are divided into classes based on price, sweetness level and varietal type.
The original idea behind the show, and the decision not to include "old world" wines, is that Europe tends to name its wines based on geography (Burgundy, Chianti, Rheingau), while "new world" producers tend to identify their wines by grape variety. Examples of varietals being Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah.
More than 50 professional judges, plus several judges in training, are employed to judge some 16-1700 entries. Judges came from as far as Holland this year (thanks to a little help from American Airlines), and a number of East Coast judges are employed to assure a fair shot for wines produced on those far shores.
NWIWC is also the only competition to feature trophies for most important best of variety winners and to all sweepstakes best of show winners. It makes for a little added excitement beyond the usual gold and silver medals.
Space will only allow me to give you a few of the very top winners today, I'll give you the rest of the champions next week, and then slip in gold medalists from various varietal categories as space permits in weeks to come. While publication is a few weeks away, you can order the official awards book containing all winning wines by sending $6 to: NWIWC 97, Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702
To be named winner of the American Airlines Trophy for New World Grand Champion, a wine has to be named best of its type in price class. Then it has to beat the winning wines from the other two or three price classes for the same type wine (and the winner isn't always the most expensive, though often it is).
These taste-off rounds are taking place for every conceivable wine type. Then there's a taste off to determine the "Big Four," the best red wine of show, the best white wine, the best sparkling and the best fortified dessert wine. Then those four are placed on the table and the judges asked to pick the overall Grand Champion.
It is very unusual for champagne or sparkling wine to come in overall best of show. Judges tend to go for powerful reds or intense whites, never pinks and rarely bubbly. But they did it two years ago for "J" by Jordan, and they did it again this year.
Winner of a gold medal, best of price class, the Thornton/Culbertson Trophy for Best New World Sparkling Wine and the American Airlines Grand Champion Trophy, is Gloria Ferrer 1988 "Carneros Cuvee-Late Disgorged" Brut ($25). It's an exceptionally elegant champagne that can set on the table with anything from California and much of the French stuff, even those selling for twice as much and more. It is limited, but available.
Knowing the identity of the winner of the Brown-Forman Trophy for Best New World White Wine won't do you much good unless you live in Missouri. I'm not kidding. For the second time in recent years, a Missouri wine produced from a grape called Vignoles (a French-American hybrid) has walked away with this trophy. Hermannhof Winery 1995 "Missouri" Vignoles ($13.75) is just off-dry, with pleasant fruit and a very long finish. It's not too sweet for food, nor too dry for casual sipping.
As a tease, we'll save the champion red wine and fortified dessert wine for next time.
The Trinchero Family Trophy for Best New World Barbera goes to their Italian neighbors over in Sonoma for the second consecutive year. The least Don Sebastiani should do is send a case of his Sebastiani Vineyards 1994 "Sonoma Cask" Barbera ($18) to Bob and Roger Trinchero over at Sutter Home.
Sebastiani figured in another second consecutive award, this time presenting instead of receiving. The Doug Davis/Sebastiani Vineyards Trophy for Best New World Pinot Noir goes to Fess Parker 1995 "Santa Barbara-American Tradition Reserve" ($28). The 1994 version won last year.
I've been waiting for it to happen. For one of the trophy sponsors to be able to present its own winemakers with the trophy it sponsored. There have been several occasions where the sponsors wine would be runner-up. Culbertson champagnes have been runners up to the Thornton/Culbertson Trophy at least twice that I know of.
Well, it sort of happened this year. The Chateau Ste. Michelle/Andre Tchelistcheff Memorial Trophy for Best New World Merlot goes to Columbia Crest 1994 "Columbia Valley, Washington" Merlot ($11). Columbia Crest is Ste. Michelle's sister winery in eastern Washington. Who was runner-up? Why, Chateau Ste. Michelle itself.
Deinhard is major producer/exporter of German wines, which means Riesling more than anything else. Even though the company produces no wine eligible for entry in this show, it still sponsors the Riesling Trophy simply because it believes in promoting Riesling wherever it is grown and produced. And this year the Deinhard Trophy goes to Dr. Konstantin Frank 1995 "Finger Lakes, New York" Johannisberg Riesling Ice Wine ($29.95 the half bottle). Another wine that will be tough to find on the West Coast, it is one of those spectacular "sticky" sweet Rieslings with great flavors of peaches, pears, apricots and more. A virtual fruit salad of a wine and dessert in a glass.
If you have trouble tracking any of the winners down, contact my office at (800) 845-9463 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wine of the Week will be back in two weeks.