Yes, you did read that right. Every year the Union of French Oenologists organises the Vinalies Internacionales competition in Paris. An expert jury drawn from all over the world blind tastes some 3500 wines from 41 wine producing countries. At the 2014 edition Familia Bianchi’s 2012 Malbec was given a rather special (and probably shiny) Grand Trophy for “World’s Best Dry Red Wine” (for a review of that wine hop on over to the fantastic thefermentedfruit blog).
I recently picked up a bottle from the 2014 vintage and was keen to see if any of the magic was still there. Since I was feeling generous, I decided to decant about an hour before serving to give it the best possible opportunity to impress. This process of aeration can be particularly helpful with young, full-bodied wines like Malbec since it can help to release the wine’s aromas and flavours. For more on decanting check out this great guide by the awesome Wine Folly site.
The first surprise came on pouring the wine. For some reason I was expecting a classic deeply coloured and nearly opaque Malbec, but this wine is slightly lighter while retaining the typical magenta or violet hue. It shows enticing aromas of ripe plum and black cherry with notes of licorice, vanilla and cinnamon.
The second surprise came when I started quaffing. On the palate the fruit is subdued and the wine initially struck me as rather insipid and thin. Never one to give up too easily, I came back to it a few hours later to see if anything had changed. Cue the third surprise; after a good period of standing open the wine had evolved into a charmingly silky and elegant creature with finely balanced fruit and spice. While it does lacks precision, focus and concentration, this is a great wine to enjoy on a warm spring evening while you ponder the delights of the coming summer. And, most importantly of all, it did pair rather nicely with my pre-dinner round of hard, salty cheese.
So what about the best dry red in the world? For the industry, awards are a great way to boost sales and consumer awareness, and for consumers it’s a great way to find interesting new wines which have been tried and tested by experts. Yet personally, I always think of these lofty titles and awards as inane and fatuous. Wine is made to be shared and enjoyed according to individual preference. You like the wines you like, I like the wines I like. Naturally quality is important, but the very idea that there could be one wine above all other wines which is the absolute bomb, the “best”, seems absurd and confusing. In this case, the wine is only the best dry red out of however many of the 3,500 bottles entered were red wines.
What do you think? Should wines be given labels like the “Best Dry Red” or does it just mislead the public?