Thirsty work

Thirsty work

Thirsty work

First published in NewsXtra

Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris selects some favourable wines that have scooped a medal.

A taste of success.

In the same vein that Team GB will be hoping to be at the forefront of medal-winning countries, winemakers from a record number of nations entered the 2012 International Wine Challenge (IWC) and Decanter World Wine Awards.

Indeed, while around 15,000 athletes will be hoping to strike gold at the Games, 14,119 wines competed against each other at Decanter, the world's biggest wine competition; and 425 gold medals (the highest gold medal tally in its 29-year history) were awarded at the IWC which featured more than 12,000 entries.

The wines were tasted blind by panels of judges including the world's best critics, Masters of Wine, sommeliers and wine merchants. Whereas scoring wine is context specific (variety, region and sometimes price), there's no doubting the value of a seal of approval from the IWC, or a recommendation from Decanter.

Not only does a gold, silver or bronze medal give producers well-deserved credibility, but wine lovers also have a sporting chance of being able to choose a label that's ripe for the picking.

Here are eight medal-winning wines fettled to perfection which have satisfied expert judges, and are available to buy online.

France topped the medal board at the IWC with a total of 1,136 medals, including this fruity little gem from Gascony, which was also awarded a bronze by Decanter. Proving medal-winning wines don't have to cost the earth, try Domaine du Tariquet Classic, IGP Cotes de Gascogne, Famille Grassa 2011, France (£6.99, www.tanners-wines.co.uk). A blend of four grapes including sauvignon blanc, it has a delicate floral nose and well-rounded fruit flavours, plus with an easy-drinking freshness at 11.5% abv, it's the perfect lunchtime tipple.

New Zealand romped home at the Decanter World Wine Awards with 92% of its wines entered receiving an award, such as this nugget from NZ's most famous export, Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

A gold medal winner at Decanter and the IWC, try Shingle Peak Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011, New Zealand (£8.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk). Fragrant and soft with yummy passion fruit, melon drops and tropical fruits, it has a herbaceous finish with lasting appealing.

On the other side of the southern hemisphere, Chilean winemaker Leyda won a gold from Decanter for its Vina Leyda Garuma Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda, 2011, Chile (£8.50, www.thewinesociety.com). Grassy and nettly with gooseberries, grapefruit and a zesty, limey finish, it's a crisp white with good intensity.

Synonymous with Burgundy blondes, Louis Jadot was awarded a bronze by Decanter for the joyous Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse 2010, France (£19.25, www.slurp.co.uk, coming soon). Not to be confused with Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley, which is made from sauvignon blanc, Pouilly-Fuisse is 100% chardonnay in all its French glory. Elegant and rich with stone fruits, good acidity, a nice mineral streak and subtle use of oak, the Olympian price tag reflects the wine's quality.

Australia's medal count of 673 at the IWC put it in second place behind France, and includes dark beauties such as The Black Pig Single Vineyard Clare Valley Shiraz 2010, Australia (£10.99, www.virginwines.com). Dense and powerful, it's a blockbuster, showy red that won a bronze for its forest floor of concentrated black fruits, gentle spice, firm tannins and long, powerful, velvety smooth finish.

Corbieres in the sunny Languedoc produces full-bodied and spicy reds such as this IWC silver medal winner, Abbotts & Delaunay Corbieres Reserve, 2010, France (£11.99, www.averys.com). A savoury blend of syrah, grenache and mouvedre, it's packed with gorgeous blackberry and plummy flavours, black peppery spice, and softly structured tannins.

For the hedonist in the cellar, Le Grand Chai Chateau La Brande 2010, France (£12.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) is a Right Bank Bordeaux from a great vintage that won't break the bank. Similar in style to a good St Emilion (it's next-door neighbour), this merlot-dominant Cotes de Castillon scored a silver at the IWC and can be enjoyed now, but will benefit from laying down for several years.

There's more to Portugal than just port as it proved by scooping 444 medals at the IWC, which placed it third after Australia.

This polished red hails from British port producer Johnny Graham's vineyards in the Douro and won a bronze at Decanter. Try Churchill's Estates, Douro Red 2009, Portugal (£10.95, www.tanners-wines.co.uk), for a lip-smacking table wine that's bursting with sweet, juicy blackberry fruits and comes highly recommended.

:: Best buy Euro 2012... If Spain's win against Italy left you thirsty for a refreshing, fruity white to match with calamari and garlic prawns, try Val do Salnes Albarino 2010, Spain (£9.99 from £11.99, until July 29, Marks & Spencer). Albarino is the trendy white grape from Galicia, and the Spanish answer to pinot grigio... ole, ole!

:: Liquid news Under the hammer... A bottle of The Macallan 50 Year Old achieved a record price at Bonhams Whisky sale in Edinburgh on June 27. Distilled in 1928 and bottled in 1983, it sold for £17,500 against an estimated price of £10,000-£12,000. Only 500 bottles were released of The Macallan 1928 and they rarely see the light of day, so this was a real prize for any serious whisky collector. For more information, visit www.bonhams.com

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