Posted by: jmbwineblog | July 6, 2010

LIWF (London International Wine Fair)

What now seems like an age ago, on only one day (as a group of us were off to Piemonte the next day) I put in a visit to the London International Wine Fair at ExCel in Docklands, East London. This was to be an interesting affair with lots of great wines to taste and discuss. In fact so many wines that one would need to have visited from start to finish on all three days in order to taste every single wine possible, and even then, you probably wouldn’t want to!!! So much wine with four days of winery visits to follow the next day is not ideal for one’s liver. I for one do not wish to put it under TOO much strain as I would like to continue tasting these wines for a long time. Anyway, there were plenty of interesting stands to visit and taste. With various interesting vinious artefacts on offer. To cut a long story short… a fascinating event and plenty to talk about.

My first port of call, was to take a walk and look at the surroundings, getting to grips with all around… it didn’t take long for me to spot something different and interesting, which came in the guise of some Russian Sparkling Wine called Abrau-Durso. From a part of Ukraine where the people still consider themselves to be Russian, and with a head winemaker/winemaking consultant from France, they attempt to make Champagne-like wines. Although they are probably a little bit of a way off with their standard wines, although they do make a fascinating and spritely Red Sparkler (vintage tasted = 2007), and a good premium vintage wine from 2002 which was resolved mature and lovely to drink. They call it the Collection Vintage. There was another vintage cuvee called Cuvee L’art Nouveau which was crisp and creamy, with good potential to age, but needs a bit of time for the rasping acid to calm a little bit.

The Wines and the People

Next up was a visit through the Italy stands and a look at some of the wines that the Tuscan Sommeliers Association had picked out for tasting, and although many of these wines were young, they had undoubted quality and are certainly worth searching for. The Super-Tuscan wines of Rossi di Medelana (2005 Tassinaia & 2004 Lupicaia) whislt clearly in the modern, Cabernet based styles they are good, structured and age-worthy, with notes that scream of Tuscany but without any volatility, although with the Lupicaia, the oak needs to resolve itself. For something a bit more rustic and rough around the edges, the Caccia Al Piano; 2005 Levia Gravia from Bolgheri was nice, and with good potential, although the alcohol was a touch obtrusive. Last of the lot that caught my fancy were the excellent Chianti Classicos from Setriolo, made in large Slovenian oak botte. Both lovely, the 07 Chianti Classico being perfumed and fresh with potential to age however, was overshadowed by the elegant, fresh but very serious Riserva! Lovely Stuff!

Tuscan Treats

Next up was the current vintage selections from Wirra Wirra, a winery that makes good wines from top to bottom in South Australia. Their Scrubby Rise wines being ripe and opulent but always good value. Although they may acidify their top wines, there is a balance and freshness that speaks of naturally produced wines. The RSW and Woodhenge being particularly good… their very rare Chuck Block is not to be missed. For a Cote-Rotie style blend, there is plenty to shout about in their Catapult Shiraz-Voignier blend.

The decanter Unsigned Talent Tasting provided some lovely wines, not least some excellent 2007 Tuscans and some 2005 Piemontese Nebbiolos, but in general for the quality prices were high and wines that can be found in the UK already will provide pleasure for the same price. For example, The Tapas Wine Collection Tempranillo 2008 was ripe, round and gluggable, whilst also having charactar. At 5-7 squid, I can find stuff in the UK that does the job… yes its different, but is it so different and so much better to go through the hassle of sourcing them? The 2005 Barolo by Negretti was really nice, not stunning but really nice. However at over 40 pounds a bottle, are people going to buy it. If I want unsigned talent there is plenty in Italy (as discovered on my piemonte trip) that is cheaper more enjoyable and the families are willing to cut deals (more on them in future instalments).

Next up were a few New Zealand Wines, perhaps a marketing gimmick but a Japanese man owns the Osawa Winery in HAwke’s Bay and produces an entry level wine called The Flying Mouton… they do make good wines, but no better than anything else on the market coming out of New Zealand. The Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer at this level were however wines I would buy to add some variety to this part of my cellar, however this winemaker does make some excellent wines, notably their top cuvee Osawa Sauvignon Blanc and Osawa Pinot Noir; lovely mineral expressions that are certainly up there with some of the best the region can offer. The Chardonnays from them, however, I found a bit lifeless and overdone. Perhaps they should stick to only Sauvignon and Pinot… they are doing good things there.

The Osawa Pinot Noir

I’m always a bit of a fan of the bubbly stuff, and despite the prices, always say that the best (although it can be well rivalled by some other regions in both Europe and the rest of the world [a favourite being CAVA]) comes from Champagne in France, and what a treat I had at the next stand we visited. A number of producers from La Vallee de la MArne in the Champagne region (all grower producers) were showing their wines (and Champagne is a wine; its just that the bubbles disguise the taste of the horrible stuff!! 😉 )

First of all we tasted some of Champagne RogerDelph’s wines, all very nice, but with strong increases in quality and style as the price increased, with the Grande Reserve (65% Pinot Meunier and 2 extra years in bottle) being round and delicate, but with depth and poise, and the 2003 Cuvee Prestige being big, bready and powerful, but still holding together some lovely mineral charactar. I found the wines of Gerard Gratiot to be a touch aggressive for my palate, but with time they should calm into pleasant wines, the 2004 Millesime being a notable exception, but it still needs a lot of time to round out and turn into something beautiful. Champagne A. Robert makes some lovely delicate, elegant wines from top to bottom, and really showed poise and class, their Cuvee Le Sablon Brut being a bit of a knockout amongst their three wines… but this didn’t prepare you for the sheer brilliance of the wines produced by Champagne Jean Comyn. their Rose was good with time in hand, and it just got better and better. All their vintages and Blanc de Blancs are superbly poised, with a great future, although some may find them a bit hard to fathom right now. Next up here was Champagne Baron Albert, with a number of good wines in their range showing complexity and poise, they really step it up with their two flagship wines, the 2004 Preference and the Cuvee A L (Blanc de Blanc; Oak Barrel Aged) both excellent but with their balance and poise, they will become something very good indeed. Last up here were Champagne Gratiot-Delugny, who make good to very good, minerally, classic wines with various different cepage depending on the cuvee… but their piece de resistance is their 2000 Histoire d’Homme, both round and ripe, but delicate and mineral, it is chiselled and sculpture-esque. Not to forget that it has the potential to get even better!!

Bubbly Stuff

Last of all it was off to the Vintex stand, where with a number of well-known ‘Sauternes People’ it was many a sample of 09 Sauternes and Barsac. And a few lesser reds from about the place. Now having tasted these before most had been released at this occasion, and probably a huge sense of boredom with the whole polava and relief at the drawing to a close of the Bordeaux 2009 Campaign I won’t go into details, but as with previous tastings, the following three wines really stood out for me; Doisy-Daene, Guiraud, Coutet and Broustet, but once again this just prooved how good those stickies in 2009 Bordeaux really are, and by the end of the day, my palate was knackered and the wines were a touch warm… now that is saying something!!!

Yum Yum Yum in my tum; Sauternes and Barsac

Next it was back home to pack and prepare for the extravaganza that was Piemonte…

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