Top wines Top wines under $20


The Wines: Our top wines for under CI$20 (or thereabouts!):

Sommeliers, restaurant managers and those who simply love their wines gathered at Grand Old House recently to blind taste their way through 34 wines (13 reds, 16 white and five rosés) to bring you the best of the value wines on offer in Cayman today. Participating wine distributors were Jacques Scott, Cayman Distributors and Tattershall.

The Journal and Grand Old House have been holding regular blind wine tastings over the years to give readers an idea of what the experts think are great wines at great prices. Since we began blind wine tastings a couple of years ago, Martin Richter, Manager at Grand Old House, says that there has been a definite shift in the types of wines on offer here in Cayman.

“Our early wine tastings were dominated by Chardonnay and had very few rosés in the mix. Now we are pleased to note that the wine distributors on-island have really diversified their portfolios with a fantastic selection wines made from of indigenous grapes and a significant increase in the number of rosés on offer.”

Martin says the indigenous grape wines are particularly exciting: “Wines formally made just for local consumption, in Italy in particular, are now being exported. The wines are made from grapes unique to the terroir, knowledge and heritage of their particular location, so it is really exciting that we have the chance to sample them here.”

Assembled for this latest tasting were well-known experts in their field – Martin Richter, wine aficionado Dale Crighton, The Ritz-Carlton’s Food and Beverage Manager Guntram Merle, Blue’s manager Martin Hoetzl, Blue’s sommelier Kristian Netis, Jakob Piskorz from Grand Old House, wine lover Nigel Twohey, Bacchus’s sommelier Martin Pillat and yours truly.

Martin Richter gave instructions to the tasters that they should keep personal preference out of the equation, and urged us to bear in mind that we were tasting for the consumer, not for personal consumption.

Wines were scored out of a maximum 20 points (six for bouquet, three for colour, and 11 for taste) and Martin advised that he would discard the highest and lowest scores from each round, to give a more consistent average marking.

Kicking off with the whites (three Pinot Grigios), Martin warned that the first flight usually got marked lower than the rest as the assembled tasters’ palates became accustomed to the task in hand. Interestingly therefore, the first flight contained the third favourite white – an Italian Pinot Grigio Kris 2007 (Jacques Scott – CI$16.95).

Four whites made from indigenous grapes then followed. The first, Donnafugata’s Anthilia 2007 (Jacques Scott CI$17.95) came fourth in the white wine tasting. Dale noted that this wine had “the best nose, a consistent taste and the best colour” out of this flight of wines. Although not scoring in the top four whites, Masi’s Soave 2007 (Cayman Distributors CI$20.50) was enjoyed by Guntram, who noted the wine’s crispness.
“It’s refreshing on the palate and has good acidity. This would make a great wine to be enjoyed with food,” he said.

Three Sauvignon Blancs then followed, all scoring over 90 points and thus well liked by the tasters. The last wine in this flight came second in the whites – a Monkey Bay from New Zealand’s Marlborough region (Cayman Distributors CI$18.50). Martin Hoetzl noted the wine’s “classic nose, typical of the varietal”.

The following flight of three Rieslings made the tasters sit up and take note, with one scoring top marks for whites and another scoring joint fourth. Top marks went to S.A. Prum’s Kabinett 2006 (Jacques Scott CI$20.25 – [okay so some poetic licence needed here for the extra 25 cents – Ed]), with Martin Richter noting “This is a fantastic, classic Riesling from the Alsace region – honey nose, good body, with a nice finish.”

Kristian noted: “I think this is still a young wine that shows a great deal of potential.”

The Blue Fish Riesling 2007 (Jacques Scott CI$15.95) also scored well in this round. Dale commented on its “excellent nose and nice balance”.

Chardonnay was next under the hammer, with three wines scoring well, but not brilliantly.

Five rosés were then poured, and with the popularity of rosés hugely on the up, Martin Richter had high hopes that they would score well. Surprisingly, they didn’t, apart from the Montes Cherub 2006 (Jacques Scott CI$14.95) which was the only one to brake out of the 80s with a respectable 93 points.

On to the reds, and tasters adored the first flight of Pinot Noirs. The second wine in the flight scored overall first out of the reds – California’s Domaine Carneros 2006 (Jacques Scott CI$19.95) while California’s Wild Horse Pinot Noir (Cayman Distributors CI$20.50) and New Zealand’s Wild Rock (Cayman Distributors CI$20.50) also scored well, with 95 and 94 points respectively. The Wild Horse was enjoyed by Kristian for its smooth, rich flavours, although tasters agreed that all three Pinot Noirs pretty much spoke the same language.

Three Merlots had a varied response, the final of the three, Benziger 2005 (Jacques Scott CI$17.85) winning third place overall among the reds. Kristian noted the wine’s “freshness, with a hint of figs, chocolate and licorice”, while the Estancia 2003 (Jacques Scott CI$19.95) scored well but did not make the top three. The latter was enjoyed for its smooth softness and easy drinking.

The Cabernet Sauvignon flight that followed produced two excellent wines and one not so well-favoured. The Wild Horse 2002 (Cayman Distributors CI$19.75) came second overall out of the reds and Nigel loved its “interesting taste” while Kristian appreciated its “good maturity” and Martin Hoetzl liked its “typical Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics”.

Our final tasting consisted of two wines that could not be categorised due to their indigenous grape varietal. Spain’s Domini 2005 (Jacques Scott CI$19.95) made from 40 per cent Garnacha Negra, 20 per cent Carinena, 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 per cent Merlot, and 10 per cent Syrah was liked by Nigel for its “interesting taste”.

Two Shiraz brought the tasting to a close, both scoring reasonably well, with a 2006 Kendall Jackson (Cayman Distributors CI$19.50) edging a couple of points over the Layer Cake 2008 (Jacques Scott CI$19.95).



Top wines, The team: Back l-r Dale Crighton, Kristian Netis, Guntram Merle, Nigel Twohey, Martin Pillat, Front: Martin Hoetzl, Jakob Piskorz, Martin Richter