More rea­sons to celebrate

GOLDEN SHOT: A York­shire su­per­mar­ket stole the show at the In­ter­na­tional Wine Chal­lenge Awards, writes Chris­tine Austin.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

T was a good night for York­shire last week as Brad­ford-based Mor­risons won the Wine Su­per­mar­ket of the Year ac­co­lade at the In­ter­na­tional Wine Chal­lenge Awards. Mor­risons’ wine-buy­ing and man­age­ment team were there in force at the glitzy din­ner in one of Lon­don’s top ho­tels and they seemed par­tic­u­larly de­lighted to beat off com­pe­ti­tion from Waitrose which had to make do with the Highly Com­mended award.

I caught up with Mark Jar­man, head of wine oper­a­tions at Mor­risons, just af­ter he had col­lected the tro­phy and asked him what changes his team had made to clinch this award for the first time. “This is the re­sult of two years of hard work,” he said. “We have made a huge step for­ward in qual­ity and in value across the range. We have sourced new wines from South Africa, Spain and Por­tu­gal, and done a com­plete range re­view of France. Value for money has been the watch­word for the wine range and clearly our cus­tomers ap­pre­ci­ate what we have done since sales have grown steadily dur­ing the past year.”

One fac­tor which may have helped cus­tomers find their favourite wines and boost sales could be the way Mor­risons wines are dis­played on the shelves and de­scribed on their web­site. They have aban­doned the clas­sic coun­try by coun­try ar­range­ment and in­stead have given their wines dif­fer­ent taste pro­files. So there are “Fresh” flavours in the Sauvi­gnon Blancs, Ar­gen­tinian Tor­rontés and Span­ish Al­bar­iño. “Smooth” ap­plies to Ch­ablis, Viog­nier and some Pinot Noirs. “In­tense” de­scribes a deep-flavoured Côtes du Rhône, Rioja Reserva and a Lime­stone Coast Caber­net Sauvi­gnon.

If you are not sure what style of wine suits your palate, you can do the Taste Test on the Mor­risons Cel­lar web­site (www.mor­, an­swer­ing ques­tions about your tastes in salt, sugar and the way you like your drinks. That leads through to a se­lec­tion of wines that should suit your palate.

As well as the top ac­co­lade of Su­per­mar­ket of the Year, Mor­risons won a whole fist­ful of medals for in­di­vid­ual wines. Gold medals went to M Sig­na­ture Grüner Velt­liner 2014 (£6.99) for its crisp ap­ple and min­er­ally style. M Sig­na­ture Ch­ablis 1er Cru Ch­ablis, 2012 and 2013 (£14.99) both won gold for their vi­brant cit­rus and al­mond notes.

Sil­ver medals went to a huge chunk of the port and sherry range. M Sig­na­ture Man­zanilla (£5.99 for 37.5cl) won sil­ver for its re­fresh­ing, al­most briny style. It was joined by other sil­ver medal-win­ning sher­ries, a smooth, rounded Sig­na­ture Oloroso, a bal­anced, re­fined Sig­na­ture Palo Cor­tado and a rich, prune and black tof­fee style of Sig­na­ture Pe­dro Ximenez.

M Sig­na­ture Valpo­li­cella Ri­passo 2013 (£7.49) also won sil­ver for its dark, dam­son fruit with leath­ery and co­coa over­tones, while M Sig­na­ture Red Douro 2013 has deep plummy fruit with touches of cho­co­late and spice.

What is clear from all these medals is that Mor­risons’ own-la­bel, M Sig­na­ture range has been se­lected with high qual­ity firmly in mind. Thir­teen Sig­na­ture wines won Sil­ver or Gold medals.

As usual I was part of the judg­ing process at the In­ter­na­tional Wine Chal­lenge, although I had had no in­flu­ence on the Mer­chant Awards. I spent two full weeks as a panel chair, judg­ing around 100 wines each day, all of them blind. For one of those days I was joined by my ap­pren­tice for 2015, Laura Ben­nett who is from York but who at the time was work­ing for Ma­jes­tic Wines in Wolver­hamp­ton. Gen­er­ally my ap­pren­tice is a wine en­thu­si­ast rather than some­one al­ready work­ing in the wine busi­ness, but Laura’s ap­pli­ca­tion to join me for a day’s tast­ing in Lon­don was so en­thu­si­as­tic, I just couldn’t ig­nore it. She joined my panel which that day in­cluded a Ja­panese wine and sake ex­pert, a food and wine ex­pert from Wales and a wine mer­chant from Som­er­set

The way the chal­lenge works is very sim­ple and to my mind is the most re­li­able and rig­or­ous way of judg­ing wines. I judge sev­eral wine com­pe­ti­tions around the world each year and the chal­lenge is the one that I re­gard as the best. Each wine is bagged up so the la­bel and neck la­bel can­not be seen. If it comes in an un­usual bot­tle shape then the con­tents are de­canted into a neu­tral­look­ing bot­tle. In the first week of the chal­lenge, wines are pre­sented in flights of up to 12 wines, grouped by style. The aim of the tast­ing is to de­cide whether any of these are po­ten­tial medal-win­ners in which case they are put for­ward into the fol­low­ing week’s tast­ing, or whether they should be re­jected or re­ceive the first level of award, Com­mended. Although I am a panel chair, re­spon­si­ble for the group opin­ion of the five or six pro­fes­sional wine judges around the ta­ble, con­sen­sus is im­por­tant and no one opin­ion dom­i­nates

CHRIS­TINE AUSTIN We have sourced new wines from South Africa, Spain

and Por­tu­gal.

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