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Sparkling review completed

Eight internationally renowned wine experts gathered at Denbies Wine Estate on 9th November for the inaugural Sparkling Wine Review to benchmark sparkling wines from 13 different regions across the world: Argentina, Australia, Burgundy, Champagne, Chile, England, Italy, Languedoc, Loire, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia and Spain. These wines included 15 alone from the IWC sparkling wine retailer of the year Waitrose.

Dee Blackstock MW, Waitrose sparkling wine buyer, Marks & Spencer sparkling wine buyer Sue Daniels, Graham Beck winemaker Pieter Ferreira and wine writer Simon Woods joined the Review’s co-chairmen Dr Jamie Goode, Sam Harrop MW, Jean-Marc Sauboua and John Worontschak to taste the wines as part of an in-depth and innovative benchmarking process.

In the run up to the tasting day, each wine was put through a full technical analysis by Corkwise to determine pH, alcohol level, free sulphur dioxide, total sulfur dioxide, residual sugar, total acidity, volatile acidity and pressure.  On the tasting day, the wines were blind-tasted in flights by the judges working in panels of three.  The technical analysis and origin of each wine was then revealed and the wines re-tasted to complete the panel’s appraisal.  Jamie Goode and Jean-Marc Sauboua finished the organoleptic analysis by re-tasting and sense checking each review, conferring with the initial panel if they wished to make any changes to ensure consensus.
Commercial and packaging appraisals by the co-chairmen in conjunction with a specialist drinks packaging designer from marketing agency Chillifish took place the following day. 

Sam Harrop MW commented: “This was a unique benchmarking process.  A couple of our reviewers were a little uncertain about it initially, but once the process began they were unanimous in their agreement that it was the most comprehensive and interesting way to assess wines.  It enabled us to dissect each wine in great detail without any possible bias.  We’ve got some fantastic detail to feed back in each benchmarking report to those producers brave enough to submit!

“Of course there were some stars from Champagne, Cava and Prosecco; but it was the styles coming from the new world that really surprised the panels; with some offering incredible value with exceptional quality and complexity.  Sparkling wine is a global category that needs a lot of commercial attention and respect and we hope that our efforts will not only help producers make better wine, but also bring a greater spotlight to the category to help overall sales of sparkling wines from all origins.”

Harrop continues: “Correlating sensory results and technical analysis post-judging enabled us to make some fantastic observations that can give the sparkling wine world real food for thought when preparing wines for market.  There were discernible trends amongst high scoring wines in terms of sulphur levels, pH, pressure, acidity and residual sugar. 

"For winemakers wanting to target the UK market in particular, there appears to be an ideal set of parameters to aim for, although it’s clear that region of origin and vintage also plays a big part.   There were also many other technical and commercial observations that will be captured in the reports that we’re currently working on, which will be shared with the producers.  Obviously the reports are confidential to entrants – and this is a key element of the SWR process.”

The tasting notes and scores from those entrants happy to share this information will be published on the SWR website in January.  Delegates at the second International Sparkling Wine Symposium at Codorniu in June next year will have the chance to taste some of the top wines from the Review in the Grand Tasting.

For more information about the Review and how to enter next year, go to the website:, or call Mike Florence on +44 (0)20 7164 2113.

• The organisers of the Sparkling Wine Review are:
Litmus Wines – Sam Harrop MW, John Worontschak and Mike Florence – Dr Jamie Goode




1 November 2010 - Felicity Murray