Although the competition was run under strict Covid rules with lots of spacing, carefully defined areas for tasting and fewer judges, I decided that the difficulties of travel to the venue were too great to cope with in the midst of the pandemic.
But I missed the whole experience. Judging at this competition is not only an opportunity to taste through hundreds of wines, I find that it is a way of testing my taste buds and redefining my wine vocabulary.
Still, the IWC 2021 managed without me and thousands of wines were tasted, from over 40 countries. Now the results are in (check out the website www.internationalwinechallenge.com) but to save you wading through the long lists of medals, then trying to find stockists and prices, I have selected some of my favourites that you can pick up at local stores.
Soave 2020, Italy, Morrisons, £4.25: With the scent of spring flowers, lemon and lime flavours and a dash of herbs this is great to pour alongside summer salads. It won a Silver medal and a Great Value Award.
Paul Mas Reserve Languedoc Blanc 2020, Waitrose, down from £9.39 to £6.99 until Tuesday: Not only did this wine win a Gold medal but it was also awarded a Great Value Award. Made by Jean Claude Mas, who has transformed the reputation of the Languedoc, this is a blend of Vermentino, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc. Rounded and smooth, it has ripe pear and peach notes, lifted with orange zest and clear freshness. Perfect with a summer lunch.
Most Wanted Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain, Co-op, £8.50: A Gold medal for this deliciously aromatic wine with notes of orange peel and lemongrass, and a crisp, rounded texture that makes it so good with shellfish. A real bargain.
Finest Tingleup Riesling 2020, Western Australia, Tesco usually £9: Stocks are low on this wine but I am assured it will be back on the shelves this week which is a good thing since it won a Gold medal. It comes from the excellent Howard Park Winery in Western Australia and it is full of lime and lemon-zest aromas with a touch of herbs and a slightly off-dry finish. If you cook up a Chinese stir-fry this is the ideal wine to go with it.
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2019, South Africa, Majestic, £11.99 on a mix-six deal: A Silver medal and a Great Value award for this pink grapefruit and passion fruit-filled wine with crunchy minerals on the finish. Totally refreshing.
Vergelegen Semillon Reserve 2018, Stellenbosch, South Africa, Roberts & Speight, £16.89: A Gold for this delicious wine from one of the best and most beautiful estates in the Cape. Semillon is not often so clearly defined in a wine. This has floral notes with clear lime fruit edged with honey and a touch of spice.
It has weight balanced by crisp acidity and it goes wonderfully with all kinds of fish, especially if there is fennel on the plate. Roberts & Speight has the 2017 vintage which didn’t win the Gold but it is terrific.
Le Rosé de Balthazar 2020, Languedoc Roussillon, Waitrose, £7.99: A mix of Syrah and Grenache grapes grown on chalky soils in the south of France, this has light raspberry and red cherry fruit with a streak of citrus to keep flavours fresh. Silver medal and Great Value Award.
Mirabeau Pure Provence Rosé 2020, France, 13%, Booths, down from £15 to £11.25 until Tuesday: This pale, fresh-tasting, strawberry-infused rosé now has a Silver medal and a Great Value award. Try it with scallops, salads and salmon.
Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône 2019, France, Asda £9: This rounded, plummy wine with a distinct streak of peppery spice won a Silver medal and a Great Value award. Watch out for it on Asda’s Rollback offers when it goes down to just £7.
Pinot Vigilante Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019, £9.99 Aldi online only: Packed with dark cherry fruit, with strawberry top notes, this has the classic weight and full flavour of Otago Pinot, ending with a streak of freshness that makes it perfect to team with duck and lamb.
Viñalba Malbec Touriga 2020, Argentina, Majestic, £12.99: Bodegas Fabre makes the whole range of Viñalba wines and every one of them hits the mark. This mixes high altitude Malbec with 20 per cent Touriga Nacional, the grape normally found in Portugal. The result is a Malbec with dark plum fruit and a twist of chocolate and liquorice. Gold medal.
Marea Syrah 2019, San Antonio Valley, Chile, Majestic, £12.99: From the cool San Antonio Valley, this Gold medal wine manages all Syrah’s regular dark fruit and spice, but there are layers of complexity and a firm, foodie finish.
Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2018, Tuscany, Italy, Waitrose Cellar, £13.99: This delicious, fine-grained, truffly, spiced black cherry wine won a Silver medal this year, but I have followed it for years and it never disappoints.
The Best Amarone Della Valpolicella 2017, Italy, Morrisons, down from £16 to £14 until Tuesday: Grapes were dried before fermentation to concentrate the flavours. The result is this Gold medal wine with dark, dried plummy fruit, figs, chocolate and cinnamon notes wrapped around with smooth, silky tannins.
No 1 Castillo Perelada Cava Brut 2018, Spain, Waitrose, £10.79: With a Silver medal and a Great Value award, this is the one to pick for your next family gathering. Creamy mousse with aromas of honeyed citrus and a rounded toasty palate.
Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2018, Cornwall, England, Waitrose Cellar, down from £32 to £28 until Tuesday: It was an earlier vintage of this wine that I and several wedding guests carried to Canada for my son’s wedding. It was totally delicious, but did the Canadians notice? No.
Now it has a Gold medal for its purity of fruit, perfect balance and elegant finish and it stands out for sheer quality.