A little-known vineyard near Stroud in the Cotswolds has taken the wine world by storm by winning a coveted accolade, with its sauvignon blanc coming out on top in a blind tasting by the Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters.
Woodchester Valley, which is run and owned by the Shiner family, placed first in the prestigious tasting’s “£20-£30 unoaked” category. While English sparkling wines have in recent years been widely acclaimed, it is the first time a still wine from the UK has picked up a medal in the Masters competition.
Fiona Shiner first planted sauvignon blanc grapes in the steep, limestone slopes of the Woodchester valley in 2015, bucking the English wine trend for planting pinot noir and chardonnay. The move may have initially appeared an eccentric one, as sauvignon blanc tends to fare better in the warmer climbs of the French Loire valley, California’s Napa or most famously, Marlborough in New Zealand. The Woodchester Valley wine faced off against wines from all three.
The awards, now in their 10th year, are run by Global Wine Masters, with wines judged blind by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers.
Michael Huband, marketing executive for Global Wine Masters said of the result: “This was definitely a surprise. We’ve had high performing English wines before, but having an English sauvignon blanc enter and do so well was a very pleasant surprise.”
He added: “England is making some good pinot noir and chardonnay — the Champagne style and Germanic grapes tend to do better here and English sauvignon blanc hadn’t really entered the conversation, until now.
“It’s a testament to the team at Woodchester and people like Fiona who’ve spearheaded planting sauvignon blanc. Fiona and her team have chosen everything from the microclimate to the grapes to the land very well. They know their stuff and when conditions are right you end up with something beautiful.”
Shiner recently published an online blog and said of the award: “It is a phenomenal result for our small Cotswold vineyard. From the first taste of the pressed juice to the finished wine, we were excited about its potential.”
She continued: “It has taken a little time to reach its peak and in November we were thrilled when the 2021 vintage was awarded the highest score and the highest award in the unoaked category of the Global sauvignon blanc Masters. In very good company and beating off contenders from around the world, it was the first English still wine to be awarded a Master in this competition”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, bottles of this now globally-recognised wine are nearly entirely sold out.
The award continues the trend towards greater consumption and enjoyment of English wines generally. Leni Miras, food and beverage operations manager at Mayfair’s Beaumont Hotel, told the Standard she considered this country’s wines “some of the best in the world”.
Miras told the Standard: “When I personally look at the market, English wines are absolutely one of the most exciting categories. If we think back, 20 years ago there was absolutely nothing, but now in some areas the UK produces some of the best wines in the world”.
She continued: “There is really a gap in most wine lists for more English wines. It can be a hard sell, to convince a customer to buy an English wine they don’t know versus a sancerre or a chablis, for example. It’s really up to the industry to push these fantastic English wines.
“With the high quality English still wines that are emerging, I will certainly look to add more English wines to my list.”