England scored a shock win over Australia in a battle of the white wines led by former England rugby ace and wine buff Andrew Sheridan.
However, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association England v Australia 'wine off' ended in fans giving an overall victory to Australia when the two nations went head to head in a blind tasting of sparkling, white and red.
In a tight run contest, three of Australia’s bestselling wines were pitted against three wines from the award winning Bolney Wine Estate. Australia pushed their way over the try line with their red and sparkling, but there was a runaway win for Bolney in the white wine category for its Bacchus.
Much like their status on the rugby field, Australian wines are clearly still global heavyweights, but this taste test shows that the English are beginning to put up a pretty good fight.
When it comes to a price match the clear winners in this contest are the Australian wines. English wine producers believe the latest government commitments to support English vineyards could make the price of English wine more palatable in the future.
Sheridan, 35, who hung up his boots last year after sustaining a neck injury, said:
"The Australian wines come out on top for value, and in this blind tasting snuck over the line to score in the red and sparkling categories.
“The Aussies know how to make a very drinkable, reasonably priced wine which will be accepted at anyone's World Cup party. But there is no doubt that the English underdogs are snapping at Australia's heels in the wine market.
“Overall it was an evenly matched contest with each side showing different strengths and weaknesses as expected from very different climates.
“In the Australian camp, we didn't come across a bad wine and like their rugby players the wines were consistently very good. But we shouldn't under estimate English wine. They have the potential to surprise everyone and all it will take is a burst of sheer class to come out on top."
Sheridan has shown his strength on the pitch, but is now pouring his passion and drive into the wine trade. The burly former prop lives in the south of France with his wife and five year-old daughter where he is immersing himself into the world of wine.
Not only is he heaping on the wine qualifications - having already passed his WSET level 2 and 3 and is midway through his diploma for level 4 - he is also taking a hands on approach to learning about vino. Sheridan said:
"This harvest, I volunteered at the Bandol wines vineyard in Castell-Reynoard.
"I want to learn about this industry from all sides. Hand picking the grapes was hard work. I didn't come out of the vines as battered as I was from the rugby pitch, but it was certainly back breaking work."
Sheridan used his wine tasting expertise to judge three Sussex wines from the Bolney Wine Estate against Treasury Wine Estate's Australian Wolf Blass and Lindemans.
Four English fans and four Australian joined Andrew in marking their winners in three competing categories. The wines were then individually marked with points awarded for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Sheridan said:
"The surprising victory came in the shape of Bolney's Bacchus which came top with both English and Aussie fans.
“The Australian wines were consistently good and very drinkable. But what seemed to unite both sides and what impressed me, was how aromatic and sophisticated the English white wine was.
“It is an exciting time for English wines. They are showing that the cooler climate wines can be complex and compete with their more established New World cousins."
The convincing win for Bacchus over the popular Chardonnay, Lindemans Bin 65 2014 shows why English wine is filling up its trophy cabinet.
In the 2007 Decanter awards English wine didn't achieve a single win - in contrast to this year when they were awarded over 100 medals.
The red wine taste test showed the Australian, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon ahead of the charge when pitted against Bolney's Pinot Noir. Sheridan added:
"The Wolf Blass was packed with very obvious black fruit flavours, but what I found interesting was it was not too heavy. At 13.5 % abv, there was less alcohol than you might expect from a punchy Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.
“In comparison the English offering, Bolney's Pinot Noir, had strong red fruit aromas, but not the same concentration of flavours as its Australian competitor. The English red was impressive for a cool climate wine and may well suit drinkers after a lighter red wine."
Finally the sparkling category put the Wolf Blass Yellow Label sparkling up against Bolney's Blanc de Blanc 2010, where fans put the Australian fizz in front. Sheridan said:
"I have to say I found the English sparkling had the best texture and the longer finish. It was refreshing and citrusy, but perhaps a little high on the acidity front. Australia's fizz had more weight but for me, not as much finesse when it came to texture."
Australia is known for its more favourable grape growing conditions, but English wine is fast becoming a real competitor in the global wine market.