Even restaurants with savvy sommeliers pay attention to the Ultimate Wine Challenge, which announced its 2012 winners last week. Yes, it’s a contest where wineries pay to participate ($95 per entry). But the blind judging format—the 14-member panel includes five Masters of Wine and two Master Sommeliers—ensures the results are on the up and up.
The contest is sponsored by New York City-based Ultimate Beverage Challenge, a company which conducts three major beverage evaluation events each year: Ultimate Spirits Challenge, Ultimate Wine Challenge and Ultimate Cocktail Challenge.
Below are the 27 wines that won the highest honors in their respective categories in the 2012 Ultimate Wine Challenge. You can find out more about them—and learn the names of the 216 wines that were designated as “great values” on the basis of their score-to-price ratio—at the company’s website. Plenty of the “great value” wines are priced to fit nicely on most restaurant wine lists, either as whole bottles or as by-the-glass options.
Here’s the list of overall winners and their categories:
• Bodegas y Vinedos De Aguirre Reina Ana Gran Reserva 2009 Maule Valley, Chile (Assorted Reds – Southern Hemisphere)
• Davis Bynum Pinot Noir 2010 Russian River Valley, United States (Pinot Noir – World)
• Domaine De Nizas Le Mas Rouge 2009 Languedoc, France (Assorted Reds – Europe)
• Franciscan Estate Magnificat 2007 Napa Valley, United States (Assorted Reds – North America)
• Gamela Reserva, Viñas de Altura Malbec 2009 San Rafael, Argentina (Malbec – World)
• HandCraft Petite Sirah 2010 California, United States (Petite Sirah – World)
• Herdade da Comporta 2008 Setúbal DOC, Portugal (Assorted Reds – Portugal)
• Monte De Oro Deportola Vineyards Estate Grown Merlot 2008 Temecula Valley, United States (Merlot – World)
• Monte De Oro Vista Del Monte Vineyard, Estate Grown Syrah 2007 Temecula Valley, United States (Shiraz/Syrah – World)
• Nordby Vineyards Il Re (The King) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Lake County , United States (Cabernet Sauvignon – World)
• Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel 2009 Sonoma County, United States (Zinfandel – USA)
• Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2011 Finger Lakes, United States (Riesling – World)
• Fetzer Gewurztraminer 2010 California, United States (Gewurztraminer – World)
• Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand (Sauvignon Blanc – World)
• Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2010 Okanagan Valley, Canada (Chenin Blanc – World)
• Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2010 Okanagan Valley, Canada (Chardonnay – World)
• Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2010 Somontano, Spain (Assorted Whites – World)
• Willm Réserve Pinot Gris 2010 Alsace, France (Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – World)
• Le Caprice de Clementine Les Valentines 2011 Cotes-de-Provence, France (Rosés – Europe)
• Midsummer Cellars Rosé Grenache 2011 Yolo County, United States (Rosés – North America)
• Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé 2008 Carneros, Napa, United States (Sparkling – World)
• Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut NV Epernay, France (Champagne – France)
• Eden Vermont Ice Cider Calville Blend Apple 2010, United States (Cider – World)
• Whistler Icewine VQA Riesling 2008 Niagara Peninsula, Canada (Ice Wines – World)
• Barbadillo Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado Palomino NV Sherry, Spain (Sherry – Spain)
• Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 2009 Douro, Portugal (Porto – Portugal)
• Kitaya Kansansui Junmai Dai-Ginjyo NV Fukuoka, Japan (Sake – World)
Plenty of labels mentioned here or on the Ultimate Beverage website could be solid additions to any restaurant’s wine list. Doing well in this contest might make them harder to get, so contact your wine distributor soon if you find any of them of interest.