‘Fine wine’ – like haute cuisine or modern art – is hard to define. Conventionally, fine wine refers to regions with long-established reputations for excellence, with Burgundy and Bordeaux at the forefront. But as the world of wine evolves, more and more regions are demonstrating their ability to challenge this definition.
These emerging regions are incredibly diverse. Some have been cultivating vines for centuries; others, for barely a decade. Some grow globetrotting grapes such as Chardonnay and Shiraz, while others celebrate indigenous locals such as Rkatsiteli and Koshu. But what unites them is their ambition to make wine that bears comparison with the finest wines from around the world.
Recent results from the IWSC show how wines from England, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, China and Japan can all win gold medals, earning them a place alongside the world’s greatest.
English sparkling wine has firmly established itself as an equal to Champagne. Not long ago, England was notorious for producing acidic wines from hybrid varieties that were more notable for their ability to ripen in a cold climate than for the attractiveness of their flavours. But as the climate has warmed and expertise has improved, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have become the first choice of growers, with pioneers such as Nyetimber becoming internationally renowned.
Nowadays, there are dozens of brands doing just as well. IWSC gold medals went to the 2014 Rosé Bella from Bride Valley, the Dorset estate established by the wine writer Steven Spurrier; a late-disgorged 2009 Chardonnay from Coates & Seely in Hampshire; and a great-value Non-Vintage blend from England’s largest producer Denbies.
Equally exciting are the non-sparkling reds and whites that are being produced. The medals won by Gusbourne’s Pinot Noir and Woodchester Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc prove that England can produce varietal wines that are able to stand alongside their rivals in New Zealand or France.