Quality Drink Awards 2014 - The Winners
by Angela Mount
Last week, at a glittering ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, the winners of the Quality Food and Drink Awards 2014 were announced to a packed audience; The Q awards are arguably the most fiercely contested competition within the food and retail industry, with supermarkets, convenience stores and discount stores, all battling to win the gongs for the best products in a host of categories.
The Quality Drink Awards are an integral part of the overall competition and celebrate the very best products on the shelves, in various categories, which offer the best value for money, at any price point. It’s not about super-premium wines, it’s about affordable wines, which wine lovers can enjoy and trust as an everyday or weekend treat.
All the wines submitted are tasted blind, by an independent panel of experts, assessed and judged on taste and price. Firstly is the wine good quality? Secondly, does it offer value for money? We don’t know what we’re tasting, but we have clear price bands, so that we can put a value to a wine. Decisions made are totally impartial; we don’t see the bottles, we don’t know the retailer, so we are totally objective. The results speak for themselves.
This year, there were more entries than ever, and tough decisions had to be made; each year we are amazed at quality and the price of some of the wines that win the top medals – and proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent glass of wine. For any doubters, it proves the sheer quality that the very clever supermarket buyers are finding and putting on the shelves for us to enjoy.
Once all the judging is complete, the panel have to pick the single wine which has impressed them most - and to all our surprise, by unanimous vote… it went to a Rose wine… Aldi The Exquisite Collection Malbec Rose Uco Valley – simply outstanding, and simply read on to find out more about this fabulous wine.
The 2014 Winners
There are so many great wines on the high street right now – here’s a guide to the very best, from the Quality Drink Awards wine section this year:
This is for non-champagne fizz, and we had lots of entries this year. Aldi’s zesty Freemans Bay Marlborough Sauvignon blanc sparkling, and Asda’s Wine Selection Asti Spumante (THE perfect wine for Christmas pudding, and a delightfully fresh and fruity affair) were both highly commended, but the clear winner was the outstanding Lidl Prosecco, which knocked spots off other more expensive examples, was full of creamy, baked apple and pear fruit, and had a deliciously fresh, zesty finish. At only £4.99, it was also unbeatable on price.
There were two categories here, below and above £20. In both, one supermarket stood out for the sheer quality of the wines, which would easily take on some of the big established brand names. Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny Champagne, with its ripe, toasty character scooped the highly commended prized in the under £20 category, but it was Tesco who swept the board – whilst some categories offered up surprise winners, this wasn’t one of them – Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne NV is consistently one of the very best on the market – it wins award after award in blind tastings, and I take my hat off to the Tesco buyers. As one judge said ‘ it’s impressive with no compromise on quality’.
The Over £20 category was no less impressive, with Tesco cruising to the top spot with their Finest Vintage Champagne Grand Cru 2007, a sumptuous and stylish fizz from a lovely vintage, full of rich, creamy, hazelnut and toast flavours, and a gloriously ripe, lingering finish.
White wine under £6 - It’s tough to be able to deliver a very good glass of wine under £6 these days, but it’s still possible, as this tasting demonstrated. With praise for Aldi’s super-fresh, tongue-tingling The Exquisite Collection Muscadet de Sevre et Maine (£5.99), and also the fruity, aromatic Spar Chenin Blanc Reserve 2013, the award went to a wine from a much underrated grape variety, which is one of my personal favourites, and is starting to make a comeback as the perfect wine with spicy food, was the vibrant, aromatic and citrus-spiked Tesco Simply Riesling, which offered ‘cracking value’ and wowed the judges.
White wine under £12 - This was a fiercely fought- out category, with Aldi’s The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2014 drawing much praise for its elegance, and lime fresh character; however, the clear winner was the very stylish and characterful Tesco Finest Albarinho Paxo Torrequintas, packed with vibrant peach and citrus character – a perfect wine for seafood. Elegant and flavour-packed.
Some deliciously fruity wines in this category; praise to Tesco’s red berry – scented Finest Grenache Rose, which was highly commended. The winner, however, was one of the easiest decisions of the entire day, and wowed judges with both its product quality and stylish packaging. Step forward Aldi The Exquisite Collection Rose Malbec, a Chilean delight from the high altitude Uco Valley. ‘They’ve nailed it’ was the verdict of one judge; the wine was outstanding, full of ripe, bold, strawberry and candied fruit character, but dry, and with a delicious freshness.
Moving on to red wines, we looked at Red wines under £6, where Tesco and Aldi again took the honours; Tesco ran a close second with their soft, spicy Tesco Vineyards Chilean Merlot, but it was Aldi again at the top of the podium, with their Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere (£4.99). We loved the rich intensity of this wine, bursting with bold cassis and ripe fruit, and certainly delivering a top tipple at under £6. In the over £6 red wine category, we were beguiled by two wines – the runner up, Asda’s Extra Special Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, full of soft, scented, silky raspberry fruit and the winner, Aldi’s The Exquisite Collection Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore (£7.99), a glorious Italian classic, with a luxuriously indulgent flavour, and superb concentration and depth.
Finally, the fortified wine category, where we always expect to find a few stars; this year was no exception. Tasting through both sherries and Ports blind, the judges were in no doubt about the winner and highly commended wines; Tesco dominated with some superb entries from their Finest Special Selection Amontillado Sherry and Finest Special Selection Manzanilla, to the outright winner, the dark, rich and gorgeous Tesco Finest Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, described as being ‘ a bargain buy for Christmas, giving you a big red hug in a glass’!
Whilst I can’t comment about the food section of the awards, I was delighted to see Tesco winning the overall and much coveted Retailer of the Year award – they have one of the best own brand ranges of any supermarket, especially with their Finest selection. At the end of all the judging, the panel had one more task – to pick an overall ‘Golden Q’ award, for the wine, which reached the absolute pinnacle and stood out above all the other winners – the choice was unanimous and delightfully different – Aldi’s The Exquisite Collection Malbec Rose – an outstanding wine, which should be recommended even to those uncertain about pink wines!