Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Selfridges Wonder Bar: pleasure by the measure

Tonight was an exciting night for the team. It was the launch of our brief but brilliant two week tenure at the Wonder Bar in Selfridges. For the next 14 days, 50 Decanter World Wine Awards trophy winners will have their fine curves wedged tightly into an Enomatic machine in order to be devoured and enjoyed by the public.

To put it into perspective, 10,285 wines entered the competition this year and only 91 came away with a trophy. These 50 bad boys make up the top 1% of the wines tasted by our panel, so whatever you end up trying, it's pretty likely to be good.

On my way to the tasting I caught sight of a flashing yellow sign that formed part of one of the window displays. Framed with Hollywood-style light bulbs, it took me a while to realize it was a huge poster advertising our collaboration with the Wonder Bar. There, in the window of Selfridges, one of the biggest department stores in London, if not the world, was Decanter's name in lights, literally. It was a weird and wonderful moment. I felt excited and proud of our fifteen minutes of fame, and the fact that we've stepped outside the insular bubble the wine world is guilty of cocooning itself in.

So, how did the wines fare? I'm a big fan of the Enomatic. It's like a wine pick 'n' mix full of liquid pleasure by the measure. The beauty of it is that it drags people out of their comfort zones and forces them to try something new. Currency comes in the form card that can be topped up in multiples of ten. So £10 will get you 10 samples of wine under £10 or 5 samples of wine over £10. Once you've juiced your card the fun begins. You get that kid in a sweet shop feeling where you genuinely don't know where to begin.

I hit the wine jukebox with brio, starting with a trio of whites, moving on to an octet of reds and ending with a quartet of sweet and fortifieds. Here are my top ten...

Rustenberg, Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2007
Light and fresh on the nose, with aromas of crunchy green apple, citrus and honeysuckle. Creamy and complex on the palate with a lovely rounded mouthfeel and appealing malolactic notes. The wine has lovely balance and lingering length.

Maison Albert Bichot, Domaine du Pavillon, Mersault Premier Cru Les Charmes 2007
A classic nose displaying wonderful minerality. We're in Burgundy heartland. Elegant and refined on the palate with buttery malolactic notes pairing with refreshing citrus and green apple. A lovely, rich, creamy mouthfeel balanced by a good acidity that cuts through it. The delicious mineral notes persist. A truly charming wine.

Weingut Johann Donabaum, Riesling Smaragd Setzberg, Wachau, 2007
A lively nose of citrus and stone fruits including lemon, lime, peach and apricot that mix with blossom and floral notes. Lots of tropical fruit on the palate, from passion fruit to lychee. The wine has a lovely acidity and underlying mineral notes. It's zippy, young and full of the joys of spring (even when opened in Autumn).

CVNE, Pagos de Viña Real, Rioja, 2002
An attractive ruby colour with a lovely savoury meaty animal nose, along with baked cherries, cedarwood and leather. A very traditional Rioja. Smooth and silky on the palate, the wine has excellent structure and persistent length. Pass me the lamb chuletitas.

Jacob's Creek, Johann Shiraz Cabernet, 2001
A lovely nose of black bramble fruit - black currants, black berries, black cherries, mint and eucalypt. Smooth on the palate, it retains its elegance despite a voluptuous full body and bold, grippy tannins weaved with wonderful spicy peppery notes.

Marchesi di Gresy, Martinenga, Barbaresco, 2005
A typically Italian nose of lively bright ripe red fruit - strawberries and bitter cherries. Vibrant and smooth on the palate with appealing licorice and smoky notes wrapped around firm grippy tannins. Balsamic notes on the finish.

Valdivieso, Single Vineyard Merlot, Curicó Valley, 2007
Slightly jammy rich ripe red fruit and vanilla sweentess on the nose mixing with black cherry, black currant, smoke and tar. A heady wine. Rich, smooth and well rounded in the mouth with lovely spicy notes coming though and the vanilla sweetness persisting in the length. I wish I could drink the whole bottle.

Bodegas Fernando de Castilla, Antique Amontillado
Elegant nutty nose of roasted almonds and hazelnuts that mix with burnt caramel and citrus notes of lemon and orange peel. Bone dry on the palate with attractive oxidized aromas, refreshing acidity and a lingering hazelnut finish.

Emilio Lustau, Sweet Oloroso, Añada 1990
Tawny colour with a sweet nose of burnt toffee, caramel, raisins and almonds. Heady and rich on the palate with an unctuous mouthfeel and impressive acidity that lifts the sweetness through to the deliciously long nutty finish.

Henriques & Henriques, 15 Year Old Bual Madeira
I've just come back from Madeira so was very excited to try this. It didn't disappoint. A heady nose of dried fruits, raisins, sultanas, figs, prunes and burnt toffee. Rich, complex, delicious and mouthfilling, with hazelnuts, almonds, vanilla and burnt sugar on the palate. Scrumptious.

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