Ginola scores at world's biggest wine challenge

To his winning free kicks, flowing locks and appearances in L'Oréal shampoo ads must be added another string to David Ginola's bow: fine wine.

The French former footballer renowned for his finesse at Tottenham and Newcastle in the 1990s has carved out a new career as a producer of more than passable plonk.

Yesterday the judges of the biggest wine fair in the world, the International Wine Challenge, awarded Ginola a coveted silver award for his Coste Brulade rosé, praising its "gentle strawberry fruit flavours with a hint of minerality". They also commended two of the retired winger's other bottles.

By triumphing on his debut at the blind tasting, Ginola was cementing the rising credibility of wines produced by celebrities. Only 14 per cent of the wines entered into the competition were awarded gold, silver or bronze, yet well-known faces lent their reputation to seven of them.

The South African golfer Ernie Els clinched three silvers for his Bordeaux-style reds; the 2004 Ernie Els, (praised for its "big fruit oak nose"); the 2006 Cirrus ("ripe crunchy berries"); and Lapa Cabernet Sauvignon ("woody but well integrated").

Els farms at Stellenbosch, South Africa's main wine region, with his friend Jean Engelbrecht and the vintner Louis Strydom.

A red from the American film director Francis Ford Coppola, the Diamond Collection Red label Zinfandel, earned a commendation. He also makes pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon at his vineyard in Sonoma County, California.

Commended were wines from two other famous faces – the former Top Gear presenter Quentin Wilson, who makes Quentin Wilson's Chateau Gourgues, and Cliff Richard's Vida Nova Reserva.

Two years ago, the pop singer was tricked into criticising his wine in a blind tasting on Gordon Ramsay's Channel 4 show, The F Word.

"He thought one of the wines was amazing," Ramsay recalled. "Of course it was, it was £400 a bottle. Then we got to one which I told him was a £12.99 wine. He said, 'That's rubbish! I wouldn't pay for that. It's tainted, it tastes like vinaigrette. I'd never even buy that.' I said, 'Cliff, that's your own wine!' He went bananas."

Richard is nonetheless proud of his Portuguese wine, a blend of shiraz, aragonez, trincadeira and alicante bouschet.

At the IWC, British wines marginally improved on their strong performance last year, winning 22 medals. A single UK Gold went to a sparking wine from Kent, the Balfour Brut Rosé 2004. The top three medal winning nations were France (696), Australia (587) and Spain (381).

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