Drink lovers are perhaps more accustomed to seeing Master of Wine Alistair Cooper talk passionately about the wines of South America. The writer, judge and international wine consultant has experienced the wines of Chile and Argentina first hand; his MW research paper honed in on winemaking in Chile’s Itata Valley, and he’s even recently written a guide to the wines of Latin America.
But at the most recent rounds of tastings for the IWSC, it was the wines of the northern hemisphere that the MW was asked to closely scrutinise. While many judges taste from select regions, as a member of the judging committee, Cooper got to taste from a full spectrum of countries – sampling powerful, gutsy reds, elegant, aromatic whites; icewines from the likes of Canada and China and sparkling wines from Champagne to Asti.
From his list of favourites from the blind tastings (below), you can see the variety and diversity in the wines he tried, with the MW naming a Grüner Veltliner Eiswein by Weingut Türk in Austria as his favourite. ‘I was blown away by the exquisite balance that this wine showed. Aromatically so enticing with peach, blossom, and a honeyed pineapple character. The hint of white pepper in the background just added a wonderful spice-driven lift to the wine,’ Cooper says.
In terms of regions, Cooper thought that the Portuguese wines he tasted were the ones that overperformed. Wines from Tejo and Lisboa showcased the strength of the country’s lesser-known DOCs. A Tesco Finest* St-Emilion Grand Cru was another pleasant surprise for Cooper, proving that value can still be found in this most classic of regions.
Read on to see Alistair Cooper MW’s top eight northern hemisphere wines for 2021 (or learn more about the IWSC’s scoring system).