September 27, 2021

First independent English wine competition winners announced

The Independent English Wine Awards, the only independent national wine competition, has announced its inaugural winners after judging took place last week.

A 20-strong judging panel, featuring winemakers, masters of wine, communicators, retailers and educators met in Bristol at the historic Rummer Hotel to judge wines from a total of 16 different grape varieties from all over the country. The three gold medals were awarded to wines hailing from West Sussex, Devon and North Essex.

These were:

  • Sugrue Pierre, Trouble with Dreams 2013, West Sussex;
  • Lyme Bay, Bacchus Block 2015, Devon;
  • Tuffon Hall Bacchus 2015, Essex.

Former Nyetimber winemaker Dermot Sugrue has been spending the last few years quietly racking up acclaim and some extremely high scores for his cult limited releases. Indeed, Sugrue Pierre’s 2010 scored the highest rating ever awarded by Decanter magazine for an English sparkling wine.

Speaking with competition founder Alex Taylor prior to the event, Mr Sugrue commented that he was sceptical of competitions where gold was given out too easily. Learning his wine had taken one of just three gold awards and was the only English sparkling wine to gain the highest level in the competition, Mr Sugrue said he was thrilled with the acknowledgement.

“To be the only gold medal winning English sparkling wine at the inaugural IEWA is a fantastic accolade for Sugrue Pierre ‘The Trouble With Dreams’ 2013. This is the first vintage sourced from more than one vineyard: Storrington Priory in West Sussex and Mount Harry in East Sussex, both exceptional sites. On a personal level, to have the four highest scoring sparkling wines in this competition is tremendously satisfying for both myself, my friends at Jenkyn Place, and the brilliant team I work with at Wiston Estate.”

The other two gold medals were excellent examples of still, dry white wines made from English wine’s increasingly celebrated Bacchus grape.

Liam Steevenson MW, and IEWA wine judge, said of the competition: “Blind tasting can have its flaws, but it is a hard place to hide, the poor wines stand out as much as the great ones. The standard in Bristol was impressive though, with some of the wines as tongue thrillingly brilliant as I have tasted in a long time.

“I am fortunate enough to judge wines all over the world but there is something rather fabulous about an event managed so thoroughly, here in Bristol, involving a collection of frequently outstanding English wines,” said Mr Steevenson.

Another member of the judging panel, wine commentator and broadcaster Susy Atkins commented: “This was a well organised and inspiring event, with so many English wine experts and enthusiasts in the room.”

The competition also awarded medals to a raft of wines made from some grape varieties that remain a mystery to most consumers. In addition to Bacchus, medals went to wines made from grapes like Ortega, Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc, from which many exciting wines are now being made here. Silver medal winning winemaker, John Coulson of Polgoon vineyard in Cornwall, commented: “I think this proves the quality of wines that can be produced from Seyval Blanc in this country. This competition will definitely help increase awareness of wines like these, and the profile of English wine.”

Alex Taylor, IEWA founder, says that the English wine industry has been on the up for several years now and that he’s thrilled with the success of the first IEWA. “English wine has never been better placed than it is right now. In terms of climate, politics, economics, consumer trends – it’s never been a better time to be an English wine producer – or consumer!

“We had some outstanding, diverse entries from across the country – from Cornwall to Staffordshire, Suffolk to East Sussex. Sparkling, rosé, whites and reds – there were medals across all styles. It’s been a real honour to host this competition. It exists because I wanted to add a high quality dynamic focal point for celebrating the calibre of hundreds of hard-working English winemakers. And in this ‘post truth’ climate, our independent footing is so important. Nobody at the IEWA has ever had lunch with the Russian ambassador! I am very excited about the future of the Independent English Wine Awards given the response this year and the escalating quality of the wine being produced here.”