Ξ May 26th, 2009 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Tasting Notes, Wine News, Wineries |
A sunny Sunday in early May welcomed the first 2009 outing for the biannual Newcastle Wine fair, one of the premier tasting events for the North East of England. The 6 exhibitors covered the spectrum of wine buying options in the region and a total of 43 wines were on the tables – 44 if you counted the mystery bottle chosen by event organiser Chris Powell of the Newcastle Wine School.
A room half the size of previous years, albeit with a reduced ticket allocation, meant less free space and strangers closer together than maybe they would have chosen – however the net result was positive, with spontaneous conversations starting throughout the room over the course of the afternoon.
Flying the flag for the national wine stores were Oddbins and Majestic with a varied selection from the New and Old-World countries. Majestic had the only Champagne in the room which meant a large crush at their table in the early stages.
For the U.K. supermarkets Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are generally regarded as the best for wine quality, so it was good to see both present. Marks & Spencer (M&S) only sell wine produced and labelled for them, and this year their range includes an Ebenezer Shiraz, a Bonny Doon Syrah and an Ernst Loosen Riesling. Similarly Waitrose were presenting 7 of their “in Partnership” wines made especially for them by well known producers such as New Zealand’s Villa Maria and Spain’s Cune.
Representing the local independent retailers were Spanish Spirit, with a mix of northern Spanish regions, and French specialist Tyne Wines, who had a quartet of bottles from the tiny Côtes du Ventoux producer Château la Croix des Pins. Both of these had a dessert wine on offer, a category that tends to be under-represented at these tasting events but always gives a lot of enjoyment. Spanish Spirit also had a selection of their cheeses and cured meats which were perfect in between glasses, although my palate did not benefit from the spicy Chorizo while I was still on the whites!
Unlike previous events where I selected wines in a relatively haphazard fashion (usually summarized as “whites followed by reds”) this time I decided to be a little more methodical in the tasting and, as much as possible, go through each variety one after the other – comparing and contrasting similarities or differences between producers or regions.
Riesling was first with Oddbin’s Leitz 2007 Ein Zwei from the Rheingau, a very dry, citrusy white – all fruit and zest. In contrast M&S poured the Ernst Loosen Erdener Treppchen 2007 Kabinett from the Mosel – a luxurious, medium sweet wine with texture and elegance and which I would have guessed as an Auslese had the label not been clear enough. A few people noted it was a touch too sweet for their tastes and expectations, although I relished it.
Sauvignon Blanc was the next varietal worthy of comparison, with 3 examples of Marlborough’s 2008 vintage. The Clocktower at M&S (by Wither Hills Vineyards) had a wonderful, layered aroma but was surprisingly light in the mouth and finished quickly. Majestic’s offering of the Composite (Wine Growers of Ara) had more pungency on the nose, and, while it was also light bodied, the finish was long. Both of these were what I’d call typical of a New Zealand Sauvignon, unlike the final bottle at Waitrose, their Villa Maria “in Partnership” which had a strong citrus zest attack on the nose with undertones of gooseberry. In the mouth it was smooth and creamy and very, very easy to drink – maybe too easy but delicious nonetheless.
Several assorted whites passed by with only modest tasting notes, including an uninspiring Zuccardi Pinot Grigio/Torrontes from Mendoza at Oddbins. Chardonnay started badly with two mediocre Chablis on offer at M&S and Waitrose, but finished strong with a Macon Villages from Oddbins – the inexpensive Domaine Martin 2005 at £6.99. This was an enjoyable white Burgundy with lemon citrus aspects, a light wine but with the appearance of richness and still fresh for a 2005, punching well above its weight.
Moving onto the reds and Syrah/Shiraz was in glorious attendance starting with M&S who had two contrasting styles on show. First their Bonny Doon 2005 Central Coast Syrah, Randall Grahm at his finest with liquorice and tar on the nose, good tannins yet very smooth and leaving a touch of pepper on the finish. The other end of the spectrum saw the 2007 Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield (St. Hallett) Barossa Valley Shiraz and its warm, fruity, almost candy style and divine nose. This was delicious and easy to drink, as was the peppery 2006 Barossa Shiraz on the Waitrose stall (also made for them by St. Hallett). For me both of the Australians were unfulfilling so soon after the Bonny Doon, however I recognize that most people would probably prefer this warm, fruity and easy to drink style compared to the Californian’s more complex flavour profile.
The other reds seemed muted after these, with the exception of the gorgeous, vegetal Maipo valley Carmenère Reserva from Perez Cruz on Majestic’s table, so that was my cue to bring the afternoon to a close with something sweet and decadent, and where better than the two local stands and their dessert wines.
Tyne Wines had Domaine Treloar’s Muscat de Rivesaltes 2006 Vin Doux Natural – plenty of sweetness but light and fresh and not too dissimilar to the Uno by Liberalia at the Spanish Spirit table, a Moscatel and Albillo blend which I’ve had before and always enjoyed.
By the end of the afternoon I’d tasted my way through 37 of the 44, including the South African Merlot that was the mystery wine (I guessed Merlot but went for South America instead). Out of them all the best whites were the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc (Waitrose) and the Dr. Loosen Riesling (M&S), while for reds it had to be the Bonny Doon Syrah (M&S) with the Perez Cruz Carmenere a close second (Majestic). Best value went to the Macon Villages from Oddbins, which outperformed both Chablis on offer for half the price.
The event was a great success, with people still mixing and talking together after the tables had been cleared, helped along by a few of the exhibitors leaving some unfinished bottles to keep the conversations flowing. I was particularly pleased to find M&S had left half a bottle of the Loosen Riesling which I passed around (after taking a decent pour myself first of course!). Thanks to Chris for a fun afternoon and I hope to see it back in the autumn.