The Quality Drink Awards - Finding The Very Best At Every Price Point
By Angela Mount
The Quality Drink Awards are part of one of the, if not THE, most important and prestigious food awards in the UK, The Quality Food Awards, which recognise and reward the very best of products that are on sale in grocery stores, be that supermarket, convenience, or discounter, throughout the UK. At the glittering awards ceremony, normally held at the swanky Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, and hosted by a celebrity luminary such as the brilliantly funny Rory Bremner last year, these are some of the most coveted awards in the food and drink industry. As an ex- supermarket buyer, I know the importance and value of those shiny, gleaming silver Q trophies, and how fierce the competition is.
Judged by a panel of independent experts, each and every product is put under scrutiny, and assessed, based on taste and price ; is it great quality? Does it represent good value? I am honoured to have chaired the Quality Drinks Awards Judging panel for the past 3 years, and we have a great team of independent wine experts on the panel. I am constantly amazed by some of the wines that come out top in our tastings – testament to the fact that you can find some fabulous wines, at great prices.
This competition is all about rewarding wines and retailers for putting great quality wines on the shelves, and online, which are affordable, and for people who love wine as an everyday or weekend treat, to enjoy. This isn’t about giving gongs to special and exclusive parcels of wine, it’s about celebrating the very best of what’s available on the high street, and offers great value for money.
We taste blind, so we have no idea what wine it is, or which retailer it is from. This is one of the first rules that we put in place – so that the decisions are totally impartial. However objective we think we all are, if we see a label, there is a subliminal message – and by tasting blind, the judges can’t be swayed by any inherent views. We taste by price point – it’s important to put a value to a wine, so we have clear price bands .
The Quality Drinks Awards 2014 launched last month, and we’ll be tasting our way through hundreds of wines in August, with the results being announced on 13th November 2014. We’ve got loads of entries flying in from just about every supermarket and grocery store in the UK, and can’t wait to get started.
What is interesting is the results that have come out of last year’s awards, and prove, yet again, that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent bottle of wine. Aldi and Lidl shone in the ratings, eliciting rapturous comments from the judges, and scooping most of the awards in the Under £5 category.
QDA Medal Winners 2013 - Highlights
LIDL won the best sparkling wine category, with their Arestel Cava Brut, full of ripe, creamy flavours, and good structure – incredible value for money.
The Champagne category was won by one of the ‘finest’ and best value champagnes on the market – a very worthy winner, Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne Brut wowed all the judges, with its elegance poise, and well-balanced, creamy, and bright fruit flavours.
Moving on to white wines, LIDL again scooped the prize, in the under £5 category with its Cimarosa Chilean Pedro Jimenez - I’m not mad about the label, which I think is dull and old–fashioned, but we all loved the dry, but floral and aromatic style of the wine – fresh, fruity, a fabulous wine for spicy food, it ticked all the boxes, and is one of the best value wines on the high street. Runner up, by a hair’s breadth, was one of my all time favourites, Asda Wine Selection Marsanne, full of creamy ripe fruit and zesty freshness.
Asda came up trumps in the over £10 white wine category, with its classic ASDA Extra Special Chablis, Domaine de la Levee – an exclusively blended wine – classic, elegant and stylish, it was full of ripe, creamy, baked apple fruit, and a great, and affordable introduction to Chablis.
Rose wines are notorious for either being fabulous or simply atrocious – our favourites this year were the under £5 winner Sainsbury's Winemakers Selection Portuguese Rose - which surprised all of us by its fresh, off-dry, juicy red berry red fruit flavours, and crisp, clean, zesty finish .. and this proves the reason why we taste blind – no prejudices, no assumptions.
In the over £5.00 category Sainsburys came up trumps, with their Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Fronton Rose, a delightfully fruity dry rose from South Western France, full of ripe, juicy strawberry aromas and flavours.
The red wine category was very strong, in the under £5 section; we didn’t expect much, but were pleasantly surprised - Asda won the day with their Asda Wine Selection Cotes Du Rhone, a Grenache dominated blend, full of silky soft, juicy, ripe berry fruit – incredible value.
Another surprise at the over £5 red wine award level – Aldi pipped all the other retailers to the post with their superb Aldi The Exquisite Collection Malbec - produced in the hills of the premium Uco Valley region of Argentina, hats off to Aldi for this sumptuous red – it’s rich, bold, honest and full of vibrant, rich fruit – outstanding for its price, it had the judges marveling at its sheer style, character and incredible value.
Finally, we also judged Fortified wines; this is a category, which a high proportion of wine drinkers don’t even venture into, but it’s one of our favourites, as it throws up some amazing wines… and if you haven’t tiptoed into Sherry or Port territory yet, please think again. This is why… after all the wonderful Q awards that we allocate, the judges have the most difficult decision of all; out of all these winners, which is the absolute star, which of all these wines is the most deserving of the ultimate accolade, the golden Q Award for wines?
Well let me tell you, it was a Sherry. Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Oloroso Sherry – from renounced sherry producer Lustau, this wine has spent around 12 years in casks before being bottled – dark in colour, rich, nutty, and toffee on the nose it has an incredible richness of flavour, an inherent sweetness, yet a searingly dry finish. ‘simply fabulous’ is how one of the team described it; complex, rich, multi-layered – if you haven’t ventured into this territory yet, I urge you to try this wine, you won’t be disappointed.
That’s the round up from 2013; we’ll be judging the 2014 entries in August and announcing the results on 13th November, with a full write up on Wines Direct. In the meantime, if you’re stuck in a rut in terms of what wines you buy, or have jaded views about certain retailers, please think again, based on these awards – I certainly have.
View all the medal winners from our merchants on the dedicated Quality Drink Awards page.