Simon Mowbray Marston's Late Hopped beer is this year's best new drink launch so far, Yangarra Park Merlot is the must-stock wine and Gordon's Edge is the most inspiring premium packaged spirit. Those are the findings of The Grocer's exclusive Tasting Panel during the first six months of 2002. But while the likes of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries, Kendall Jackson, and Diageo celebrate their success, spare a thought for those products which were, in some cases, given somewhat of a mauling by our independent panel of judges. The wooden spoon for the worst wine in this year's judging so far goes to Image Verdelho from Cranswick which scored a paultry 29 points out of 100. "The alcopop style of packaging immediately put me off what was inside the bottle," claimed our target consumer as she kicked off the April 13 judging for the lilac-bottled Image. "Far too expensive, tastelessly overpackaged, gruesomely tacky, an unpleasant liquid," was the verdict of Landmark buyer Steve Mayes for the £4.99-a-bottle Australian wine. Yet it scored highly when compared with new shooter offering Magma from Allied Domecq, which just scraped into double figures with 14 points ­ believed to be the worst Tasting Panel score ever. Master of Wine Jane Brocket compared the glutinous chilli-flavoured spirit with "frogspawn", awarding it no points out of a possible 25 at her disposal. Fellow panelist Simon Massey, brand director at Nine Yards, followed suit claiming it was the "most vile concoction" he had ever tried. Yet the PR team behind Magma is today singled out for praise in the face of adversity. Following our March 2 panel, Allied issued a press release boasting of how our "team of influential commentators" had panned the drink, singling out Brocket's "hell fire in a bottle" comment as proof that it had been "slammed by the establishment". The result was coverage in several national lads magazines. Turning back to the winners, Marston's £1.29 a bottle, 5% abv Late Hopped was the clear winner overall with 83 points. The panel's comments ranged from "this is a winner" to "a great bottled beer which deserves to do well". Yangarra Park Merlot 2001 was the second highest scorer overall, with 79 points. "This is all a buyer could ask for," wrote Mayes as he pointed to the "good margins" and "high quality" offered by Kendall Jackson's £6.99 wine. However, while Gordon's Edge sneaks into the list of the best performers, it has to be stressed that it was among only two PPS launches tested this year as innovation in that arena begins to slow down. It scored modestly, with 57 points, putting it well down the list of top performers overall. {{DRINKS }}