Building on the success of the inaugural event last year the Wine Show Chelsea returned to London last week and I decided to pop along to try it out for myself.
Held over three days in the historic Kings Road Chelsea Town Hall venue, the show was devised by wine trade publication The Drinks Business to bring together the best that London merchants have to offer.
Having been to many wine shows in the past I was initially a bit worried as there were only twenty exhibitors in place, but this doubt was unfounded and in the end, I only managed to visit eight of them such were the diverse offerings and knowledgeable experts on hand.
Firstly though a diversion, and I was signed up to a Sparkling wines masterclass pitting England against the rest of the world. Hosted by not one, but two (!), Masters of Wine (MW’s) this was a rare insight in to the critical tasting approach at the top level of wine appreciation, as well as being a good refresher of the ‘why’ you are tasting what you are tasting.
Hosted by the editor-in-chief of The Drinks Business Patrick Schmitt MW, we were invited to blind taste and rate the 10 sparkling wines on offer, giving our own thoughts on grape variety, climate and key taste indicators. Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW then worked us through our reasoning; guiding, correcting and validating our theories as to the origins of what we were drinking.
The general winners on the day were the English wines which, hedging the bets somewhat, comprised 3 out of the 10 wines. Also showing well was a Loire Valley Brut NV and the ‘curve-ball’ Canadian sparkling from Benjamin Bridge. Having reviewed this wine only a few months ago, I was a bit annoyed that I didn’t recognise it (although that was the whole point of the curve-ball), but it did make my top 3 wines of the session along with the aforementioned Loire Brut and a Champagne de Castelnau NV Brut Reserve.
Masterclass completed it was then off to the exhibitors at large and I kicked things off with producer and re-seller Caves d’Esclans and their array of French rosé. We were able to taste from both 75cl bottle and magnum to compare, and I concentrated on working my way up towards the Chateau d’Esclans Garrus 2014.
This small production wine has a retail price of circa £80 and is known by some as the ‘Dom Pérignon’ of the rosé world, which of course piqued my interest. It was a lovely pale, creamy yet spicy drink, but I couldn’t say that it justified the high price tag.
Now that I had warmed my palate up I moved on to the Finest Fizz stand, and a clutch of £30+ Champagnes (including 2 from Hautvilliers, the birthplace of a certain Dom Pérignon – sorry, I’ll drop the links now!).
Highlights here included their ‘skinny’ rosé (£40) which has just 275 calories per bottle, equivalent to one large glass of an average red wine, and the Bernard Pertois Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV (£34) which was a creamy dream likened to Krug (and probably a hint as to why Krug are trying to get the winemaker to work on their team).
Next up were my friends from boutique merchant Friarwood who had a lively selection of reds and whites from across the globe. The team were so full of stories, anecdotes and general wine knowledge that I probably did more talking than tasting at this stand, but I did manage to try a velvety organic Super-Tuscan from Conti di San Bonifacio (£18.50) and a delicious 2010 Chateau Fonplegade GCC from Saint Emilion (£47.50).
I then crossed over to iDealwine, an international wine auction site who had the wine that was probably the highlight of the show for me – a 1989 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes (£64). Tasting as fresh and inviting as the day it was made, this 27 year old sweet wine was a rich nutty, honey and caramelised taste of greatness. Delicious.
Wine importer Hard to Find Wines gave me my first taste of a wine from Luxembourg. From the far right east coast of the country, the vineyards straddle the Moselle (as it is called here) and gave off a very similar experience to the Germanic wines from the Mosel. Made from the Auxerrois grape, the wine was lean with a very direct acidity.
Also on show was a Malbec from Franschhoek in South Africa. A grape more akin to other countries, Malbec is beginning to be planted in many other countries for the first time and it was interesting to try this blood-red variant full of bitter chocolate and mocha notes.
The above notes really only scratch the surface of my time at the show and I can easily say that it was phenomenally rewarding, giving me access to a really great masterclass, some stunning wines, and some truly great people.
With thanks to The Drinks Business and Unionpress for the ticket used for this tasting.