Last week saw the gathering of many of London’s local wine and food bloggers for the Semi Final of Bibendum’s World Cup of Wine.
In the previous round we had culled out the riff raff (including USA unfortunately!) and were left with four countries: Italy, France, South Africa and Australia. Now it was the chance for these heavyweights to put on their best show and fight for a coveted spot in the finals.
The Semis brought the battle home by keeping the Old and New Worlds separated this time, Italy squared up against France, as did Australia against South Africa. After a bit of trash talking and brazen banter from the Aussie contingent, the scrimmage kicked off.
FRANCE vs ITALY
France got off to a strong start with the Chablis 1er Cru, Cote de Lechet, Domaine Jean Defaix 2008, lovely crispness with a delightful structured palate of apples with a touch of spice, but Italy came crashing on to the pitch with the Soave Classico Monte Carbonare Suavia 2008 which showed off a nose of apricot and flowers followed by excellent texture and layers of flavour leaving a lasting finish.
France was feeling the pressure and pulled out the Viognier de l’Hospitalet Gerard Bertrand, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009 to get back on track. It clearly worked too, the light and easy-drinking style paired with white fruit on the nose and a palate of ripe stone fruit was impressive and France assumed the lead, forcing the Italians to try a different tack with the Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2008 from the Alto Adige. This was not my personal favourite, as I felt it lacked the appealing lychee, floral aspects of Gewurz from Alsace, and going into half-time, the French had a commanding lead.
Obviously the chatter in the Italian locker room during the break was inspirational as they came out fighting with the Col di Sasso Banfi Cabernet Sauvignon / Sangiovese 2007 from Tuscany. What a wine! Loaded with cherries, this was big, powerful and serious, but even with the strong shouldered tannins, the fruit was not overpowered and the finish was delightful. France gave an excellent effort with the Ventoux Rouge, Terre de Truffes, TerraVentoux 2007 from Ventoux, Rhone which was a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache. A spicy, juicy mouthful with loads of layers of complexity, lush dark fruit with a touch of truffle.
It all came down to the final minutes of the match and France looked to their secret weapon, Bordeaux, and the Chateau Lalande Borie 2006, St Julien. A lovely liquorice nose was promising, but sadly the palate fell apart with a lack of fruit and a green stalkiness that disappointed on the finish. The Italians saw victory in their sights and came out blazing with the Valpolicalla Classico Superiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis 2005 from Veneto. This was the wine of the night for me. Wow! Rich plums and raisins on the nose leading to a palate that was both elegant AND robust! A melange of dark fruit, bittersweet chocolate, coffee and raisins was a tempting treat and stole the show for Italy.
With a score of 183.5 to 165.5, Italy goes through to the Finals!!
AUSTRALIA vs SOUTH AFRICA
Remembering how well South Africa had done in the Quarter Finals, I was very much looking forward to an interesting match-up against the impressive, fun and popular Australians – I wasn’t disappointed!
The game got underway with the Deakin Estate Artisan’s Blend Chardonnay / Pinot Grigio 2009 from Victoria, which had a powerful fruity nose and a mouth-filling palate of layered green and citrus fruits and a decent finish and then South Africa made their first move with the Graham Beck ‘The Game Reserve’ Chenin Blanc 2009 from Robertson. It may be called ‘the game reserve’ but in this instance it was a game changer! Enticing aromas of vanilla and apples spilled out of the glass and the lush, rich stone fruit was perfectly balanced with freshness, leaving a long, juicy finish. South Africa was on the board!
Next, both teams pulled out their Chardonnay cards – the Australians chose Stonier Chardonnay 2007 from the Mornington Peninsula which showed subtle oak on the nose with a palate of vanilla, nuts and apples and a crunchy, clean finish. The South African’s brought out the big guns in the form of the Springfield Estate Wild Yeast Chardonnay from Robertson. A beautiful texture of spicy oak, intense tropical fruit and a long, persistent finish made for a tough call and, on my scorecard at least, ended in a tie.
It was up to the red wines to determine the outcome of this most anticipated battle. Both countries started off with Pinot Noir. From Australia we had Marchard & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2008 from Western Australia, a biodynamic contender! At first whiff it was reminiscent of a Burgundy with soft cherry notes and a light earthiness, but the palate was bursting with fresh fruit, lively acidity, but lacking the darker, more brooding aspects of the grape. The Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2009 from South Africa’s Walker Bay was a striker – complex with layers of mushrooms and juicy red fruit, earthy black truffles and lingering finish that won me over!
As we headed into the final stretch, the Australian’s came out swinging with the d’Arenberg Stump Jump Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2008 from South Australia – an excellent candidate for a BBQ wine as it was juicy and fruity without a huge amount of complexity or backbone, but an affable, loveable character nonetheless. The South African’s finished off the match with the Saam Heldersig Shiraz/Viognier 2006 from Paarl which showed supple tannins on a powerful palate of complex fruit surrounded by vanilla and perfume.
In the end the Australian’s just couldn’t hold on and the South African’s walked away winners by a mile – up by 20 points at 185.5 to 165.5.
So, the Final has been determined, the contenders are Italy vs South Africa! It will no doubt be a battle royale between the fashionable Italians and the resilient South Africans…who is your guess to win the Bibendum World Cup of Wine? We’ll find out together in July!
If you missed the Quarter Finals, take a look back at where we started and be sure to stay tuned for the highly anticipated showdown of Old vs New World in the finals!
There’s always time for wine!
Tara – Wine Passionista
Tags: Australia, Australian wine, Bibendum, Bibendum's Bloggers World Cup, Chardonnay, chardonnay, France, French wine, Italian wine, Italy, Pinot Noir, South Africa, South African Wine, wine from Australia, wine from France, wine from Italy, wine from South Africa, World Cup of Wine