Awards see New World wines hot on heels of Old World

French President Francois Hollande stands in the Tutiac vineyard in Marcillac, France, after inaugurating the Bordeaux Vinexpo, the international wine and spirits exhibition on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
French President Francois Hollande stands in the Tutiac vineyard in Marcillac, France, after inaugurating the Bordeaux Vinexpo, the international wine and spirits exhibition on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BORDEAUX (AFP) - New World winemakers are fast catching up with skilled Old World vintners to produce some of the globe's finest tipples, Decanter magazine's prized annual awards showed Sunday.

Released in France's wine capital Bordeaux at the kickoff of the world's biggest wine fest, Vinexpo, Decanter's 35 international trophies went to 18 wines from Europe, the remaining 17 for star newcomers Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

The winners were picked from almost 16,000 bottles after lengthy blind tastings in London by more than 200 masters of wine and master sommeliers.

"It is not enough for a wine to be excellent, it has to be the best of its kind," taking in the grape, soil, price and region, said Steven Spurrier, chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards.

While France, the world's leading wine producer, took home the most trophies with eight, Decanter highlighted the fact that a Spanish wine by Miguel Torres won the award for high-end Red Bordeaux, with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.

The "victory in a Bordeaux category is a further example of Spain's growing reputation for quality", Decanter said.

Spain won five trophies, followed in Europe by three for Italy and one each for Portugal and Slovenia.

Slovenia won its prize for a sweet wine sold at over 20 euros, while another surprise was British retailer Marks & Spencer who scored global best for a Chardonnay under 20 euros under its own label.

More and more good wine was being produced in unexpected places, said Spurrier at a news conference, where a new red wine from Turkey was singled out for praise along with Swiss wines made of little-known grapes.

A much-lauded Moroccan wine was produced from an older vineyard, but showed that the country's wines "are now more elegant", Spurrier added.

In the new world, Australia and South Africa picked up five trophies, Argentina three, Chile and New Zealand two.