French tipples bag most awards at world wine fair

France scooped the most gongs at an awards ceremony to mark the start of the world's biggest wine fair in Bordeaux this week although a Spanish plonk took the prestigious title for the high-end Red Bordeaux.

French tipples bag most awards at world wine fair
French president François Hollande tastes a tipple at the start of Vinexpo in Bordeaux. Photo: AFP

New World winemakers are fast catching up with skilled Old World vintners to produce some of the globe's finest tipples, Decanter magazine's prized annual awards showed Sunday.

Released in France's wine capital Bordeaux at the kickoff of the world's biggest wine fest, Vinexpo, Decanter's 35 international trophies went to 18 wines from Europe, the remaining 17 for star newcomers Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

The winners were picked from almost 16,000 bottles after lengthy blind tastings in London by more than 200 masters of wine and master sommeliers.

“It is not enough for a wine to be excellent, it has to be the best of its kind,” taking in the grape, soil, price and region, said Steven Spurrier, chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards.

While France, the world's leading wine producer, took home the most trophies with eight, Decanter highlighted the fact that a Spanish wine by Miguel Torres won the award for high-end Red Bordeaux, with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.

The “victory in a Bordeaux category is a further example of Spain's growing reputation for quality,” Decanter said.

Spain won five trophies, followed in Europe by three for Italy and one each for Portugal and Slovenia.

Slovenia won its prize for a sweet wine sold at over 20 euros, while another surprise was UK retailer Marks & Spencer who scored global best for a Chardonnay under 20 euros under its own label.

More and more good wine was being produced in unexpected places, said Spurrier at a news conference, where a new red wine from Turkey was singled out for praise along with Swiss wines made of little-known grapes.

A much-lauded Moroccan wine was produced from an older vineyard, but showed that the country's wines “are now more elegant”, Spurrier added.

In the new world, Australia and South Africa picked up five trophies, Argentina three, Chile and New Zealand two.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts