Back in the dim and distant past of my school days I used to play a lot of rugby and although I gave it up more than 10 years ago my training as a front row forward came in very handy at The Wine Show on Sunday, when the crowd of people at each stand very much resembled a scrum. I was told that the Saturday was even busier so I’m glad I picked the quieter day or I might have ended up being sin-binned! For all the crowds it was still a fun afternoon out. As well as all the big names like M&S, Sainsbury’s and Naked Wines there were also plenty of smaller producers and importers.
So, where to begin? Well maybe with Britain’s best known wine writer/presenter/personality/all-round-legend Oz Clarke.
Whilst many wine communicators (I’ll use that as a catch-all phrase!) try to make wine accessible and engaging, no-one does it as well as Oz. I had the pleasure of attending one of his sessions in the “Drinks Tasting Theatre”, which is possibly a slightly elaborate phrase for a few tables separated off from the rest of the show by a glass partition. Either way, Oz talked very engagingly about four wines – a sparkling red wine from Bolney Estate in Sussex, a Jackson Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Franc Arman Croatian Chardonnay and a Para Dos Argentinian Malbec. Rather than getting bogged down in tasting notes for each wine he talked very engagingly about the mindset of winemakers in the “New World” and the freedom of expression and creativity. Well worth £9, even if only for his impression of a traditional French winemaker!
If you have read many of my other blog posts you would probably expect that I shunned the large, corporate stands and headed straight for the small independants. Well, you would be right – I really am far too predictable. The way I see it, why would you want to spend your time tasting the wines you can get at any supermarket in Britain when you’ve got the opportunity to try something different? So, my highlights:
Wines of Uruguay
I’ve tried a few wines imported by Wines of Uruguay so I was keen to see what else they had on offer. I’d previously only tried Uruguayan reds so Carla started me off with a couple of whites. First up, Estival 2009 by Vinedo de los Vientos which is a Gewurztraminer dominated blend with Chardonnay and Moscato Bianco. Nice tropical fruit aromas combined with floral notes. Second was Bodegones del Sur Viognier Reserve 2009 from Juanico. On the nose it showed peachy aromas but I personally felt that the oak slightly muted the other aromatics. As always it was the reds that really impressed me – especially the Tannat dominated reds. The De Lucca Tannat Libero 2010 adds 5% Nero D’Avola and 5% Sangiovese in a nod to Reinaldo De Lucca’s Italian roots. Red fruits dominate with a hint of liquorice and vanilla from subtle oaking. They also had one of their last few remaining bottles of Marichal’s Grand Reserve A Tannat 2005. Incredible colour considering its vintage and 18 months oak aging. Black fruits and spice combined with really well judged oaking. I’ll be reviewing the Juanico Bodegones del Sur Tannat Roble 2008 which I picked up in more detail soon so stay tuned.
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard
Sedlescombe is England’s oldest organic vineyard. Enrico and Inga were showing their 2010 Old Vines white which is produced from the first block of Reichensteiner vines planted at Sedlescombe more than 30 years ago which has been farmed organically ever since. On the nose there’s citrus, green apple and a slight floral note along with with balanced acidity and a rounded mouth feel. They were also showing their First Release white, so called because it was England’s first wine produced according to Biodynamic farming methods. I absolutely love it! It’s a blend of Bacchus, Rivaner and Solaris and is beautifully clean and crisp with zesty lemon notes and maybe a hint of melon. They also had the last few bottles of their 2009 Regent red. I’m not sure if it’s all been sold by now but if you get the opportunity to taste it I would recommend you take it – It’s easily my favourite English red. Cherry and raspberry on the nose with a hint of vanilla from subtle oaking. It’s got great intensity of colour and is much fuller bodied than you would normally expect in an English red. I couldn’t resist buying another bottle!
Les Clos Perdus
As regular readers of my blog will probably know as I’ve droned on about it so many times, the Languedoc in southern France is one of my favourite wine regions so I was very excited to taste some wines from Les Clos Perdus, a small Biodynamic producer from the Languedoc. I was blown away. Les Clos Perdus roughly translates as ‘The Lost Vineyards’, so called because owners Paul Old and Hugo Stewart kept finding disused, forgotten vineyards dotted around the area and taking them under their wings. I really enjoyed their simply named “Le Rouge” 2010 Corbieres. 65% Mourvedre and 35% Grenache it’s an easy drinking fruity red with herby, spicy notes. Their Prioundo 2009 blend of Grenache and Cinsault is red fruit driven and has real finesse. More classy than rustic. Cuvee 71 Corbieres is a Carignan dominated blend with Grenache and Mourvedre. Dark fruits, earth and slightly meaty. Last up was their 2007 L’Extreme VDP des Cotes Catalanes which is a blend of Lledoner Pelut (a relative of Grenache native to south west France and northern Spain) and Syrah. It’s an intense assault on the senses with dark fruit and spice in abundance. I’ll definitely be seeking out some more of their wines next time I’m in Green & Blue, where they are stocked.
Hix and Buck
Hix and Buck is a small independent wine importer with the aim of bringing undiscovered wines directly from small producers to the UK. For founder Chix Chandaria it all started when she discovered Mas d’Intras, a small family run vineyard in the Ardeche who were making fantastic wines but struggling to sell them to a wider audience. I tried the Mas d’Intras Cuvee Ferdinand 2007 and I can see why Chix was so smitten. It’s full rich and full bodied with earthy, herby notes and a hint of vanilla from 12 months in oak. Gorgeous! Hix and Buck now import the whole range of wines by Mas d’Intras as well as a range of other reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines from other regions in France and Italy. They are also going to be opening a concession wine bar within the Hideaway Jazz Café in Streatham, south London, soon and I for one can’t wait!
There really were far too many great wines on offer to do them all justice and this feature is becoming rather longer than I had intended it to be! I really enjoyed the Lidio Carraro Agnus Merlot 2008 from Go Brazil Wines. Great ruby colour and lots of red fruit along with peppery spice.
Shawsgate Vineyard from Suffolk had a very good 2010 Bacchus which showed the archetypal cirtus and elderflower aromas that I love about English whites.
I enjoyed Wickham Vineyard‘s Wickham Row Ash red. Primarily made from Triomphe d’Alsace with a drop of Rondo, it showed black fruit and smoky notes.
I would have loved to spend more time in the Coutts Private Wine Cellar but sadly I only got a few minutes at the end of the day. Just enough time to stop by for a quick chat with the lovely Julia from the Wine Pantry and a zesty glass of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs English sparkling wine and a drop of Chapel Down Pinot Noir with it’s blend of red fruits, pepper and a slight earthyness.
Before being kicked out by security I just had enough time to visit Grays & Feather, an exciting new distributor focusing exclusively on sparkling wines. The founder Andrew Gray Wardle set up the business to showcase sparkling wines from all around the world, especially lesser known regions. I tasted the Szigeti Zweigelt sparkling red wine from Austria which combined dark fruit aromas with an unusual lightness of palette and the Maison Langlois-Chateau sparkling white from the Loire valley which showed aromatic, almost tropical fruit and a refined pallette with fine bubbles.
Overall, for a wino like me it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon!