Wine Explorers tasting: results announced

The results from the first ever tasting of the Wine Explorers project, which has so far seen over 2,250 wines tasted after a 180,000km journey, have been announced.

The Wine Explorers Tasting featured top judges (Photo: Wine Explorers)

The judges for the Wine Explorers’ World Wine Tasting: Patrick Schmitt MW, Debra Meiburg MW, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Sandrine Garbay, Thomas Duroux and Rachid Drissi (Photo: Wine Explorers)

It began in January 2014 as a three-year adventure to scour the globe – from Peru to Ethiopia to South Korea with many points in between – to uncover the most obscure winegrowing regions.

The Wine Explorers project, conceived by 30-year-old globe-trotting wine enthusiast Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, aims to visit 250 wine regions and 1,500 vineyards to yield an inventory of every wine-producing country in the world.

With the project now at its halfway stage, with 180,000km travelled and more than 2,250 wines tasted, the results from the first ever Wine Explorers’ World Wine Tasting have now been announced.

On June 16 seven wine experts (Patrick Schmitt MW, Debra Meiburg MW, oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet, Château d’Yquem cellar master Sandrine Garbay, Château Palmer
CEO Thomas Duroux, consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and Duclot purchasing manager Rachid Drissi) convened at the Duclot dining room at 49 Cours Xavier Arnozan in Bordeaux to taste wines from 12 countries.

Jean-Baptiste said: “The idea was not to judge these wines, but to assess the potential of each of the selected wine regions and discuss the notion of terroir.” To that end, some wines were tasted conventionally while others were served blind.

Obscure regions of ‘real potential’

Of the more obscure winegrowing regions, Ethiopia was judged to have “real potential” for winemaking, with poor soils at high altitudes and cool nights allowing for slow, gentle ripening and nice maturity, especially for reds.

Brazil was deemed to be “just beginning to reveal its potential”, particularly the Serra Gaucha region.

In Bolivia, vineyards at an altitude of 1,600-2,800m, with drier conditions and a “remarkable” terroir of well drained sandy loam and schist soils yielded wines with “freshness, elegance and some complexity”.

Mexico was judged to be a New World “star of tomorrow”, with the region of Baja California, south of California, one of the biggest surprises of the tasting.

Elsewhere in South America, Peruvian reds, mainly from Petit Verdot and Tannat grown at the foothills of the Andes, were found capable of “very good results”, while Uruguay produced quality wines, especially reds, in selected sites despite relatively heavy annual rainfall overall.

Canada’s Okanagan Valley was found to be “full of treasures”, while 4,400 km to the east: the late-harvest sweet white wines of Quebec made, from hybrid varieties such as Vidal or Seyval, impressed.

In the Asian region, though already the world’s fifth biggest wine producer, China was deemed to have potential to grow far more, with Emma GAO in Ningxia singled out for praise.

The tasting found that Japan “can produce very elegant and aromatic wines”, especially from Koshu, Riesling or Pinot Noir.

Special mention was reserved for South Africa which, the tasting confirmed, “can produce magnificent and elegant wines, especially from the Syrah grape variety”.

Climate challenges

South Korea’s high humidity made it unsuitable for growing vitis vinifera, with hybrid vines being necessary, the project concluded.

Viticulture in Namibia, meanwhile, remained “anecdotal”.

Speaking about the project so far, Jean-Baptiste said: “This experience remains a humbling lesson and of open-mindedness, for wines sometimes ‘outside of the usual standards’ but with an undeniable potential and personality.”

After having already explored 25 countries on four continents, the team began the first European tour in early July.

The trip, which will be the basis for a series of documentaries, the first of which should be available in the autumn, is being supported by Videlot, DB Schenker and Diam Bouchage.

One Response to “Wine Explorers tasting: results announced”

  1. Jonathan Rodwell says:

    Fascinating project and great to see the wider world of wine being given recognition – wondering if they have discovered the Atlantic Maritime wines of Nova Scotia , Canada

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