Monday, 24 May 2010

London International Wine Fair

The London International Wine Fair, an unmissable fixture in the wine calendar, always proves eventful. You can spot the fair goers as you squeeze onto the ExCel bound DLR in the morning. Enthusiastic Aussies and Italians in immaculate suits chatter, coffees in hand, as the tram swings into action.  

I made it my mission this year to turn up with some sort of game plan. It's chaos if you don't. With hundreds of producers, importers and generics showing thousands of wines, you need to be selective. Yellow speed guide in hand, I scribbled all over my floor plan, mapping out who I wanted to see.

First stop, Romania, where I tried some exciting reds made from the native Feteasca Neagra grape. One tasted like blackcurrant Fruit Pastels and the other like a buttery baked potato. The winemaker took the latter description surprisingly well, and even agreed with me. His wife went on to show me a copy of an Orient Express wine list from the '30s offering a number of their wines. It reminded me that even upcoming wine regions have rich histories.

Next stop: the Access Zone, where I said a quick hello to a very busy (and shattered) Ryan Opaz, founder of Spanish wine blog Catavino. I'd interviewed him in Decanter the week before and wanted to check out his stand. Cameras were rolling, bloggers were blogging, and there was a real buzz about the place.

Portuguese blogger Andre Ribeirinho of Adegga grabbed a bottle of wine and told me to pull up a chair. Whipping out his i-phone he scanned the barcode at the back and it immediately loaded a web page full of information about the wine - reviews, scores, the price, stockists. My eyes were wide, like I'd been given a sneak preview into the future. These guys are at the forefront of change, and are taking the wine world in a very exciting direction.

Before lunch I found time to squeeze in a masterclass on Southern Spain hosted by Peter McCombie, who took us on a tour of the beautiful south, taking in wines from La Mancha, Castilla, Valdepeñas, Jumilla and Jerez. Huge plates of jamón did the rounds during the class, giving me the chance to refuel before heading to the Penfolds stand, where Chris Stroud gave me superstar treatment, taking me out the back, magicking a pair of Riedels and tutoring me through a Penfolds vertical, which ended with the stunning 2005 Grange.

On a Penfolds high, I whizzed round the Gonzales Byass stand and tasted their limited edition new release: Tio Pepe En Rama. Cloudy as apple juice, it had an intense, yeasty nose. Nipping round Spain, I fitted in a quick Chivite vertical, then went to Russia to try Abrau-Durso's much-hyped sparkers. I was quite taken with the Russian script on the labels – Rodchenko and Popova would have loved them.

The white sparkler, that has a splash of Riesling in the blend, had a Sherry-like nose, and the red distinct blue cheese aromas. The young guy manning the stand said it had been described as everything from 'Sangría with an Oxford education' to 'the sweet blood of the revolution'. After Russia I made a quick detour to Lebanon via Château Musar to try Serge Hochar's legendary aged whites. The 1991 was unlike any white I've ever tried. Complex, oxidized (in a good way), waxy and honeyed, it's a wine that lingers hauntingly in the memory.

After clocking up serious amounts of air miles on my journey around the wine world, I hopped back on the DLR and popped into Harrods for their Women in Wine event, where I tried a delicious Pinot Bianco from Frescobaldi, juicy Brunellos from Pinino and 1996 Duval Leroy. My last port of call was the 5th Floor of Harvey Nicks for the launch of their pop-up Tanqueray terrace.

Taking a seat on the bright green astroturf, my friends and I were served classic martinis from the Tanqueray trolly, alongside adorable mini burgers and mini apple pies for pudding. Sipping my martini and looking out onto the London skyline in the Gastby-esque setting, it occurred to me what a charmed life I lead, and how golden these days of my fleeting youth are.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for stopping by the Access Zone for mentioning the "Future" in our post. I'm glad you liked it!

    See you soon!