Sunday, 23 May 2010

London International Wine Fair 2010

This week saw the wine world descend on London for the biggest trade show of the year, the London International Wine Fair. As usual producers from all over the world came to show off the latest releases from their cellars, along with packaging manufacturers and distribution companies. The biggest difference this year was the size of the show, which was remarkably smaller than in previous years, an obvious effect of the global recession. The biggest omission from this years show had to be Constellation, who own brands such as Ravenswood, Mondavi, Inniskillen and Nobilo. Notably, many of the smaller producers shared stand space, instead of spending money to have their own.

We started the day by sampling five fantastic wines, from what must have been the smallest producer there, Terre Di San Rocco. It only produces 40,000 bottles a year, but wow it was good – so watch out for a post on those. Next, we stopped to listen to Adolfo Hurtado the chief wine maker from Cono Sur in Chile, talk about its organic wines. The guys from Brown Brothers, who produce some fantastic, if not a little off beat wines, were also there, showing off its full range. This included its lusciously sweet Patricia Noble Riesling. It had amazing flavours of stone fruit, honey, marmalade and citrus; all balanced with a mouth watering acidity. This is definitely one I’ll be adding to my wine rack!

The highlight of the day, for me, was meeting Ronald Hocher from Chateau Musar in the Lebanon. We spent some time discussing how foolish we thought a leading supermarket had been for delisting his, and many other wines. We also went through a selection of vintages of its Chateaux Musar White and Red, with Ronald revealing that they have vintages going back over 50 years for both wines, which is just amazing.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. It’s great fun getting to see what wines were coming through in the next few months, and meeting some great wine makers! I’ve already booked it in my diary for next year!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Bibendum World Cup of Wine Semi Finals

Last Thursday I went along to the Bibendum World Cup of Wine semi finals, which saw France take on Italy, and South Africa compete with Australia. Each round featured two whites and two reds from each country, with some strong competition to see who would make it to the final next month!

First up was Australia versus South Africa – starting with the white selection. Australia kicked off with a strong showing, turning out a Deakin Estate Artisan Blend Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio and a Stonier Chardonnay. However, it faced some serious competition from the South Africans, who showed up in force, with a fantastic Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc and Springfield Estate Wild Yeast Chardonnay on offer. At half time in this match, it had proved all too easy for the South Africans, who were on their way to a clear victory, with a two-nil lead, thanks to the wonderful complexity of the fruit flavours and the refreshing acidity on both of their wines.

Second half and we’re on to the reds. Australia fielded a Marchard & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir and d’Arenberg Stump Jump GSM, against the South African Newton Johnson Pinot Noir and SAAM Heldersig Shiraz/Viognier. The Pinot’s provided much more of a competition, tying for points, with the Shiraz/Viognier beating the GSM, thanks to its beautifully balanced flavours and tannins. Final score: Three-nil to South Africa. We have our first finalist.

So, we’re on our next match of the evening, and this is the one we were all waiting for – the battle of the old world legends, France versus Italy. The excitement in the air was palpable as the first half wines were unveiled. France decided to opt for a Chablis 1er Cru, from Cote de Lechet, Domaine Jean Defaix, and a Viognier de l’Hospitalet from Gerard Bertrand, whilst Italy turned up with a Soave Classico Monte Carbonare Suavia and an Alois Lageder Gewurtztraminer. It was pretty close throughout, with the Chablis and Soave really battling it out, before the Soave managed to break free, scoring the first goal of the match; one-nil Italy. With everything on the line, it was tense, but a surprise take down of the Viognier by the Gewurtztraminer, gave Italy the edge at half time, with a two-nil lead.

And so, after a short interval, we’re on to the last half. The reds. From France we had a Ventoux Rouge, Terre de Truffes, TerraVentoux and a Chateau Lalande Borie, St Julien, while Italy served up a Col di Sasso Banfi Cab Sav/Sangiovese, and a Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis. It was tough, but for me the Banfi beat the Ventoux, with its youthful fruit and spice. Sadly, the group disagreed; France regained some pride; score: Two-one, Italy. Onto the final pairing. Most people would agree that this was no contest – the Chateau Lalande Borie should have beaten the Valpolicella hands down. But, we were in for another surprise, the Valpolicella put up a strong fight, and won. Three-one Italy! We have our two finalists - South Africa vs Italy!

The stars of the evening for me were the Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, a stunning example of how good Chenin Blanc can be, although we all agreed it would benefit from a couple more years aging, but still, it was fantastic now. Secondly, the Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis, apparently this is a difficult wine to sell, personally can’t imagine why!

Finally, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone at Bibendum for organising such a great evening! I’m really looking forward to the final next month!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The King of Zin Does it Again

At the 2008 London International Wine Fair, I got the chance to meet Joel Petterson who’s more affectionately known as the “King of Zin”, and is the wine maker behind the great wines from the Ravenswood winery in California. Unfortunately and I’m not quite sure why, I didn’t taste any of his wines that day, so I’d been looking for an excuse too, not that I ever need one!

I opened a bottle of Ravenswood Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel 2006 (Adegga) the other day, for myself and friend to enjoy as she’s a huge fan of Californian Zinfandel. Now despite saying Zinfandel on the label it is actually a blend of Zinfandel (76%) and Petite Syrah (24%) which just helps to give it a greater depth and complexity of flavour.

It had an opaque purple colour with pronounced aromas of Plums, Blueberries and a touch of spice from the oak ageing in the background. You got all these aromas coming through on the palate, where the spicy notes revealed themselves as Vanilla and Liquorice, you also got a touch of cocoa just to add to the mix. All these flavours, with the good levels of acidity and juicy tannins went on to produce a fantastic and beautifully balanced wine which is definitely worth more than the £8 price tag it has at the moment.

If you like your red to have plenty of flavour and body then you can’t go wrong with this wine, which can be enjoyed equally on its own or with food. It definitely goes into my top ten 10!