Sunday, 5 September 2010

Decanter World Wine Awards dinner

I'm a bit late in getting this up, but last Wednesday was our Decanter World Wine Awards dinner. I can't quite believe this is the fourth dinner I've attended - how the years have flown.

The first was at the V&A, when I was a wine newby, having worked at Decanter a mere month. I sat next to Michael Schuster and declared I preferred the Riesling to the Chardonnay we were drinking. The next day a copy of his wine tasting book landed on my desk along with a note that read: 'anyone who prefers Riesling to Chardonnay has a palate with great potential'.

We migrated to the The Hempel hotel the year after, then settled on the epically beautiful Royal Opera House, where we've been for the past two years. This year we were treated to wonderful weather - it was one of those glorious late summer evenings where the sun stayed out late, warming our shoulders while we sipped Charles Heidsieck 2000 on the terrace. I say we, but I had to steal sips from my glass, in between ushering winning winemakers to be interviewed for our shiny new site, to ferreting out their trophy Riedel decanters.

After the madness of the reception I had a chance to unwind and savour a selection of the wines on show, my standouts being the Schloss Johannisberg, Riesling Erstes Gewächs, Rheingau 2008 and Bodegas Baigorri de Garage Rioja 2005. I was sat next to Alex Hunt, who told me of his seven year quest to become an MW - the answer to which would be revealed on Friday (he did). We then got talking about the science of sight, the merits of Comte, and whether photography could be considered an art form, which, of course, it can.

Food was an exciting affair - we started with peat-smoked salmon and watercress creme fraiche and moved on to leg of lamb roasted pink with a Guwurztraminer velouté. Both were exquisitely cooked, especially considering the ROH kitchens had to churn out 400 of each dish. After the main course the 28 International Trophies were announced. There were two big surprise wins: the Red Rhône Varietal over £10 trophy went to Israeli winery Carmel, for its Kayoumi Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008, beating the likes of Rhône big guns Chapoutier and Guigal. The winery, based in Upper Galilee, celebrated its 120th harvest this year.

Another shocker, which raised the biggest cheer of the night, was when East Sussex winery Ridge View trumped some of the top Champagne houses to scoop the Sparkling over £10 trophy for its Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2006. Unfortunately I was in the loo at the time, but the cheers of delight at the fact that the Brits had trumped the French at their own game snaked all the way down the corridor.

I'd spoken with Mardi from the winery a few weeks prior, in order to get their wine dog Talby on our back page, and had to force myself not to mention the International Trophy. One word from me and the whole surprise would have been ruined. Mardi rang the office the day after the awards – she'd been bombarded with media interview requests all morning, but seemed as happy about Talby making it as a 'top dog' as she did about the International Trophy.

Before pudding I quickly caught up with Jeremy Rockett from Gonzales Byass, who was sporting a fetching Tio Pepe waistcoat, Joe Gilmour from Roberson, who was buzzing after his Kensington shop was deservedly crowned the best small independent merchant in our retailer awards, and the lovely Lo Franco brothers from Fattoria La Vialla in Tuscany (who I'm pictured with). They invited me out to their estate to do the oliver harvest in October - I'm seriously tempted.

Sitting back down to get stuck into my sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce, Barry Dick pulls up a chair beside me. We get chatting and I quickly notice he's taking no interest in his pud - watching the six pack I imagine. I feel rather self conscious about wolfing down mine, but it's so delicious I can't resist. He tells me he bought his tux 15 years ago and that it still fits. I glance down at his tight fitting trousers, his toned thigh muscles clearly visible from beneath the fabric, and get a Semillons flashback!

1 comment:

  1. Certain wines benefit more from decanting than others. Among them are young, tannic red wines like Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux, and many Italian wines because their tannins soften and the wine becomes less harsh. The younger and more tannic the wine, the longer the time required to allow it to breathe.

    wine decanters