Sydney one weekend, Neustadt, Germany the next. And it seems the rain has followed me from Sydney, via Delhi to Neustadt. It has not, however, put a dampener on the tenth anniversary of MundusVini, among the largest wine competitions in the world, writes Sommelier India correspondent, Harshal Shah.
285 wine-professionals from all over the world have gathered in this charming southern German town of Neustadt to assess almost 6,000 wine samples. It has been a real pleasure to re-connect with fellow Sommelier India contributor Michèle Shah from Italy and Masters of Wine Ned Goodwin and Dermot Nolan from Australia and Ireland respectively. There is always so much to learn when I’ve spoken to them.
With half the judging done over the last three days, I can assure you that my teeth have never been blacker nor more painful. This is one of the perils of wine-judging. Dentists advise that we don’t brush our teeth immediately following a wine tasting, but rather, continue to rinse our mouths with plenty of water.
Wines from 42 countries have entered this year’s competition which includes, for the first time ever, wines from Taiwan, Russia and Jordan. I can only really talk about the flights that I have judged and of what I’ve heard about some of the other flights from fellow judges.
From what I’ve been able to make out, of the ‘traditional’ wine-styles entered in MundusVini, Rioja seems to be performing rather poorly with frequent complaints of Brettanomyces-infected samples and overall light, un-fruity, almost insipid styles. Quite a contrast to what the Rioja-makers want us to believe. Perhaps this heralds an up-coming resurgence in Rioja in the coming years. Keep an eye out for it!
Speaking of keeping eyes out for certain wines, it is now my second consecutive wine show in which wines from Chile have impressed me and my fellow judges. Where it was Chilean Sauvignon Blanc in June in Bordeaux at the Concours Mondial, here it has been Chilean reds, in particular Syrah and Syrah blends. One of the first of these that I tasted (and remember, I did not know what the wines were or where they came from until the end of the day) almost forced me to think of the Rhône Valley. It was rather distracting because I had convinced myself that we were tasting a flight of Rhône Valley reds.
The ensuing examples were wonderfully fruity, intense and very fresh. There was no sweetness to the fruit as you might expect from, say, Australian reds. These wines were spicy (think pepper) and zippy with firm tannins and excellent balance. Many of them were also slightly minerally, most unlike a wine from Chile! I predict that these will be the next big thing in wine and are sure to make their way to India.
Other highlights have been tasting red wines from Turkey (Cabernet Sauvignon from the Thrakien region), Moldovia (again Cabernet from the region of Cahul) and Lebanon (one of my favourite styles from the Bekaa Valley). Danish whites (grape variety Orion) and Romanian reds (Cabernet Sauvignon from the Dealu Mare region) that I tried which left my jury wanting so much more.
Christoph Meininger (who essentially ‘owns’ the competition) and Susanne Denzer (who ‘runs’ it) do a fantastic job of organising the show so professionally. Everyone arrived on time, things generally started and ended on time and there was much to keep us amused in between – vineyards visits (seeing as we ARE in the Pfalz region of Germany), tastings and dinners. It really has symbolized the theme of the opening address on the first day when the compère spoke about how wine is so much more than an alcoholic drink; rather it is a part of culture and should be valued in this way rather than demonized and controlled.