Last Thursday I went along to the Bibendum World Cup of Wine semi finals, which saw France take on Italy, and South Africa compete with Australia. Each round featured two whites and two reds from each country, with some strong competition to see who would make it to the final next month!
First up was Australia versus South Africa – starting with the white selection. Australia kicked off with a strong showing, turning out a Deakin Estate Artisan Blend Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio and a Stonier Chardonnay. However, it faced some serious competition from the South Africans, who showed up in force, with a fantastic Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc and Springfield Estate Wild Yeast Chardonnay on offer. At half time in this match, it had proved all too easy for the South Africans, who were on their way to a clear victory, with a two-nil lead, thanks to the wonderful complexity of the fruit flavours and the refreshing acidity on both of their wines.
Second half and we’re on to the reds. Australia fielded a Marchard & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir and d’Arenberg Stump Jump GSM, against the South African Newton Johnson Pinot Noir and SAAM Heldersig Shiraz/Viognier. The Pinot’s provided much more of a competition, tying for points, with the Shiraz/Viognier beating the GSM, thanks to its beautifully balanced flavours and tannins. Final score: Three-nil to South Africa. We have our first finalist.
So, we’re on our next match of the evening, and this is the one we were all waiting for – the battle of the old world legends, France versus Italy. The excitement in the air was palpable as the first half wines were unveiled. France decided to opt for a Chablis 1er Cru, from Cote de Lechet, Domaine Jean Defaix, and a Viognier de l’Hospitalet from Gerard Bertrand, whilst Italy turned up with a Soave Classico Monte Carbonare Suavia and an Alois Lageder Gewurtztraminer. It was pretty close throughout, with the Chablis and Soave really battling it out, before the Soave managed to break free, scoring the first goal of the match; one-nil Italy. With everything on the line, it was tense, but a surprise take down of the Viognier by the Gewurtztraminer, gave Italy the edge at half time, with a two-nil lead.
And so, after a short interval, we’re on to the last half. The reds. From France we had a Ventoux Rouge, Terre de Truffes, TerraVentoux and a Chateau Lalande Borie, St Julien, while Italy served up a Col di Sasso Banfi Cab Sav/Sangiovese, and a Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis. It was tough, but for me the Banfi beat the Ventoux, with its youthful fruit and spice. Sadly, the group disagreed; France regained some pride; score: Two-one, Italy. Onto the final pairing. Most people would agree that this was no contest – the Chateau Lalande Borie should have beaten the Valpolicella hands down. But, we were in for another surprise, the Valpolicella put up a strong fight, and won. Three-one Italy! We have our two finalists - South Africa vs Italy!
The stars of the evening for me were the Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, a stunning example of how good Chenin Blanc can be, although we all agreed it would benefit from a couple more years aging, but still, it was fantastic now. Secondly, the Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis, apparently this is a difficult wine to sell, personally can’t imagine why!
Finally, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone at Bibendum for organising such a great evening! I’m really looking forward to the final next month!