Results for the world’s first-ever nomination-based wine award feature a diverse and inclusive list cutting across geography and vintage, with a focus on highlighting lesser-known wines. Organised by Genting Singapore and held at Resorts World Sentosa, the Wine Pinnacle Awards 2019 was the first of what promises to be an annual celebration of the world’s finest wines, honouring mature, ready-to-drink as well as young, recently-released bottles, with a strong focus on current wine trends.
The prestigious black-tie award ceremony was attended by distinguished international winemakers, top oenology professionals and wine critics from around the world, marking the beginning of a new and exciting landmark wine event in Asia which is seeing a growing appreciation for fine wines. A nomination-based recognition of wines without restrictions on origin or need for submissions or entry fees, the Wine Pinnacle Awards is the first of its kind in the world, providing an independent platform that allows for greater inclusivity. The awards also honour wineries with sustainable practices, young winemakers, and wines that present diversity across a broad spectrum be they old or new world, young or mature, as well as wines from established regions which are currently under the radar.
The illustrious five-member Wine Committee was helmed by Ms Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian Master of Wine. Lee leads a jury of over 80 wine professionals from around the globe, comprising Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, wine auctioneers, and sommeliers from top fine-dining restaurants. “As part of the Wine Pinnacle Awards (WPA) Committee, it is an honour to be among such an impressive group of wine experts and professionals, bringing together a diverse group of winemakers and wines through our collective expertise and experience. It’s very heartening to uncover wines that are under appreciated as well as highlighting the very best wines in the world to give them the recognition they deserve for their quality and merit,” said Jeannie Cho Lee. “We are excited to be able to recognise and reward those who contribute to this dynamic wine industry through this authoritative platform to showcase the most deserving wines and wine personalities from around the world,” she continued.
The Wine Pinnacle Awards Committee comprised of five internationally reputable wine experts: Jeannie Cho Lee (Hong Kong), Kenichi Ohashi (Japan), Doug Frost (U.S.A), Oz Clarke (U.K), and Andreas Larsson (Sweden). They were responsible for establishing the nomination structure and formation of a credible jury from different parts of the world, with 33 Masters of Wine and 9 Master Sommeliers among its 54 members. The committee also oversaw the nomination process and ensured its focus on quality and merit. The results are a culmination of the expert opinions of the world’s leading wine professionals, from a total of 1,069 nominations received from the jury.
Out of the 27 categories, the coveted Grand Jury award showcasing the year’s absolute best of the year, and specially judged and selected by the Wine Pinnacle Awards Committee from among the winners across all categories, went to Domaine Coche-Dury.
Wine & Dine caught up with Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian Master of Wine, in an exclusive on her thoughts on The Wine Pinnacle Awards:
How do the Wine Pinnacle Awards fill a gap not covered by other wine awards, and what impact will they have on the wine scene?
The Wine Pinnacle Awards is the first ever nominations-based recognition of wines in the world. This difference sets it apart from other submissions-based wine awards that require an entry fee as it does not place any limitations on geography and vintage, allowing for a more diverse selection founded on merit. We have also made a point to reflect trends such as sustainable practices and the growing prominence of Chinese reds, thereby ensuring its relevance and acknowledging trends.
We’ve put together a 54-member jury comprised of wine professionals and experts from Asia, Europe and the US who submitted their choices for the 27 categories we came up with. Among the 54 members, 42 are either Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers – the two highest wine qualifications in the world. Without paid submissions, the entire world of wines is open to nominations. Each category accommodates a long list of numerous wines, which were later whittled down to five finalists. The jury were asked to submit their chosen wines in order of preference with each nomination carrying different points depending on the wine’s ranking. The highest scorers became the winners of their specific categories.
We hope this new award rewards and celebrates wines that would not appear as contenders in normal wine competitions, for example top wineries like Chateau Latour or Domaine de la Romanee-Conti would never submit their wines for competition or awards. As mentioned above, interesting, trending categories are also a segment we can highlight about what is really happening in the wine industry. The end goal would be to positively impact the wine industry by expanding, highlighting and celebrating achievements of people and wineries that deserve recognition.
In your opinion, what constitutes lesser-known wines?
Lesser known wines can mean different things to different people, depending on their level of experience with wine. For a wine expert, lesser-known can be obscure wines from the Middle East or Eastern Europe that are rarely exported. However, we were keeping consumers in mind when we created this category for WPA and we tried to limit it to wines that have some (however minimal) level of exportation and we considered wines that take up very little space in wine retail shops and restaurant wine lists. Thus, lesser-known here connotes wines that are not that popular for general wine consumers and may be under the radar.
Among the wines that were nominated, which do you think is the most underrated one and why?
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon from Hunter Valley. This is one of my favourite white wines that encompasses everything I look for in great wines: distinctive flavours, refreshing backbone, great depth and intensity, impressive age-worthiness. Many people who try this wine when young may not get the full depth of what it has to offer – the best Hunter Semillons do not fully express themselves until they are 10 or more years old. The flavours become more complex, the wine gains weight and depth and they last for many decades. I urge people to seek a 15-year-old Tyrrell’s Semillon and try it for themselves.
In your opinion, what makes a good wine?
A good wine is different from a great one. A good wine should be well crafted, have balance, nice flavour intensity and moderate length. A great wine will have distinctive flavours that stand out from their peers, have a seamless texture, great intensity and depth of flavours and a lingering, memorable length.
How were these under-the-radar wines and wineries uncovered?
The under-the-radar wines and wineries are those that wine professionals seek everyday throughout their careers, much like mining for diamonds in the rough. There is great satisfaction in finding lesser-known and undiscovered beautiful wines. For WPA, the wines and wineries were nominated by our wine jury members.
What makes these ‘lesser-known’ wines unique and treasures of their own league?
These lesser-known wines are unique as agreed upon and voted by the majority of our jury members. They embody the essence of what we are looking for when we ‘mine for diamonds’: undiscovered beauties that have depth, distinctiveness, ability to age and evolve, as well an impressive sense of harmony.
What are some of your favourites from the list of award-winning wines?
I have many favourites among the list of award-winning wines, many that would qualify as among my favourites. However, if I had to choose the top 5, it would be: 05 DRC Romanee-Conti, 08 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, 99 Conterno Montfortino Barolo, Tyrrell’s Vat 1, and Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Silex.
Are there any other wine regions (not listed in the Wine Pinnacle Awards) that wine enthusiasts should look at?
Yes, there are many new categories we are exploring for next year’s WPA and many regions and grape varieties we love but could not cover given our desire to keep the categories under 30. Since we don’t want to give too much away for the 2nd WPA, I would just hint at the possibility of looking beyond Western Europe (think central and Eastern Europe) and exploring varieties not covered in our inaugural awards (possibilities are Grenache, Riesling, etc.).
Highlights of the Wine Pinnacle Awards
Grand Jury Award: Domaine Coche-Dury
“The Grand Jury award was a unanimous decision by the five committee members and this year, it is being given to Domaine Coche-Dury. The wines of Coche-Dury are the epitome of great, age-worthy white Burgundy. Their global influence as a beacon of quality and dedication is widely recognized but unbeknown to many, the estate remains small; still family-run, dedicated to quality and modest in price when the wines leave the cellar. We applaud the family’s ongoing dedication to crafting incredible, intense wines and influencing generations of white wine growers around the world. ” – Jeannie Cho Lee, MW
Best Chinese Red: Ao Yun, Yunnan, China
“We are delighted to award the Best Chinese Red to Ao Yun for proving to the world that China can produce world-class wine, even in the most remote and challenging conditions – in Yunnan mountain at 2,600 meters in altitude.” – Jeannie Cho Lee, MW
Black Swan Of The Year (Most Thought Provoking Wine): Gravner, Anfora Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia
IGT, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Gravner is a daring winemaker that has masterfully taken ancient winemaking techniques, refined them to modern standards and created an exciting array of bold and expressive wines that the wine world has fallen in love with.” – Andreas Larsson (Sommelier of the World (2007 ASI))
Best Friend Of The Earth (Most Environmentally-Conscious): Miguel Torres, Familia Torres, Spain
“Miguel Torres’ importance within Spain’s wine industry cannot be overstated, with at least three decades of innovation affecting all aspects of wine, from the vine to the bottle on the table or on the shelf. But it is Senior Torres’ impact across the globe that has not always been seen and heralded. By focusing upon sustainable actions, beyond more narrow and specific philosophies, he has challenged his peers and inspired countless others among us to live up to the standards of his unrelenting achievements.” – Doug Frost, MW & MS
Best Young Winemaker Of The Year (Under 40): Morgan Twain-Peterson MW, Bedrock Wine Co.,
“Morgan Twain-Peterson’s stunning successes didn’t come out of nowhere; his father, Joel Peterson, is one of America’s three greatest interpreters and pioneers of Zinfandel. Morgan’s affinity for wine was first noted in David Darlington’s book, Angel’s Visits (Morgan was five years old) and he has been making wine since finishing college. He earned the prestigious Master of Wine title in 2017 and under the Bedrock Wine Company rubric is making superb wines from old California vines.” – Doug Frost, MW & MS
Best Organic/Natural Wine Of The Year: Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Cuvée Marcel Lapierre,
“The term ‘natural wine’ is now widely known in many wine-consuming countries, and consumers have been enjoying the experience brought by natural wines. It is no surprise that Domaine Marcel Lapierre – highly respected in the world of natural wine – won this fantastic award. From the 1970s, the late winemaker Domaine Marcel went against the trend at that time and started chemical-free cultivation. Encouraged by Jules Chauvet who is also based in Beaujolais, Marcel Lapierre was dedicated to producing wine without relying on antioxidants and built his own style. His wine undoubtedly deserves this award.” – Kenichi Ohashi, MW
Hidden Treasure: Australia: Tyrrell’s Wines, Vat 1 Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia
“Hunter Valley Semillon has been Australia’s hidden treasure for as long as I’ve been drinking Australian wine. Experts adore the wines, but they never seem to gain general popularity. Yet they are true Aussie Classics and they boast a flavour unlike that of any other wine in the world. Tyrrells Vat 1 has been the leading example for many years and gives immense pleasure to the small devoted band who drink it.” – Oz Clarke, award-winning wine writer
Hidden Treasure: Bordeaux: Château Roc de Cambes, Bordeaux, France
“This is a wonderful property, tumbling down the limestone slopes outside the ancient town of Bourg, in a natural amphitheatre which allows the vines to capture all the sun’s warmth as well as the influence of the Gironde Estuary directly below. The Appellation Cotes de Bourg is not a famous one, but the devoted winemaker and owner is Francois Mitjaville who also produces the celebrated Saint Emilion Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf. He lavishes just as much care on Roc de Cambes and the glorious, sumptuous result is one of Bordeaux’s greatest Hidden Treasures.” – Oz Clarke, award-winning wine writer