Three hundred and eighty-three wines. Fifteen independent judges. One Olly Smith and one David Williams. It all added up to a tough day of judging for the inaugural Wine Merchant Top 50, at The Worx in Fulham.
The first task was to whittle down the entries into a more manageable number, so our teams were asked to place bottles – all tasted blind – into yes, no and maybe categories. Olly and David re-tasted all the maybes, and double-checked random samples from the other tables, to ensure the 120 wines that went through to the afternoon round were the best ones.
After that, the remaining wines were retasted by the teams and given a score out of 100. Again, Olly and David were on hand to keep an eagle eye out for any inconsistencies in scoring. There were also debates that needed resolving. “Yes, this is a terrific-value Viognier, but is it really what we want to see from this varietal, or does it taste more like Torrontes?” “We love this South American red blend, but is it worth the money?”
The Wine Merchant Top 50 is a competition with several differences. First of all, it’s only open to wines that are exclusive to independents, and already in the UK. It’s judged by independents themselves. And part of their criteria has to be: would I recommend this wine, and could I actually sell it at the recommended price?
The top scoring wines are being double-checked to ensure they’re exactly what they claim to be. The winners will be announced in September and a selection will be taken on a four-date tasting roadshow so that as many independents as possible get to taste them.
Thanks again to all our judges for giving up their valuable time to work so hard. Thanks also to the 60-plus suppliers who entered. There were some stunners on display and we’re confident that the final 50 will be pretty special.