When Stockhausen was asked his opinion of the music of Luciano Berio he said in what must be one of the greatest put-downs in the history of Classical Music "when I was a boy, my grandmother used to smack my hand when I tried to pick the raisins out of the currant bread".
No grandma was there to smack our hands at the 35th London Wine Fair at Olympia in May this year so it was for the raisins that we went.
Here are a few we extracted in a short space of time;
Hunter Valley Semillons
Two lovely Hunter Valley Semillons from Audrey Wilkinson. Audrey Wilkinson (a fellah) founded his vineyard in the 19th century. His wines would be a great addition to diversity in the UK off trade.
There were other less well known Hunter Valley Semillons too. We hope they get imported too. Hunter Valley Semillon ('Australia's gift to the world' - Jancis Robinson) could be better represented in the UK given the fact it is such a marvellous wine style. Tesco's Denman Vineyard and recently McWilliam's Elizabeth available on an ongoing basis, Tyrrells too of course, McGuigan, Margan at Laithwaites, Tamerlaine from Hard to Find Wines and Hungerford Hill from Slurp but Glenguin and Hart and Hunter have only spotty availability and McGuigan's award winning top of the range Bin 9000 are only intermittently available. Brokenwood can be had at the higher end of the price spectrum from Selfridges. When will someone import Andrew Thomas's Braemore though?
A great idea was to devote a large stand to 'Wine Grapes'. This was beautifully done as you can see with the flat surfaces covered with the same fabric as the book. There were also row upon row of bottles but why devote them only to two relatively common grape varieties; Syrah and Gruener Veltliner.Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz had given a Masterclass on these two grapes, 'their origins, relatives and flavours' including the first-ever public tasting of Dureza, a parent of Syrah.
Presentation is slicker than at the RAW Wine Fair for some reason. We liked this poster for the Limestone Coast.
LWF has a kind of Souk in the Gallery upstairs where a lot of the most interesting wines are to be found. We particularly liked this company with this rarity:
made from 25% each of Brancellao, Ferron, Souson and Mencia.
Fortunato Garcia and his wife were our charming guides to their unusual wine. they told us the story of how the wines of the Azores were exported to Northern Europe and Russia from the 18th century on since the islands are on the trade route back from North America and would stop there for replenishing on the return journey. During the October Revolution of 1917 'Verdelho do Pico' was found in the Tsar's cellars and no doubt drunk by the revolutionaries, hence the name 'Czar'.
Not surprisingly, interest was piqued when the Garcias showed the wine at a Moscow fair and it was not surprisingly awarded a medal, shown here with a dish of chocolate in the background, thoughtfully provided to show how Czar goes with it.
Vines used to be grown on all 9 islands of the Azores but now only on Pico and as you can see only with great difficulty even there as there is no soil to speak of and it seems that the vines have to be sheltered by stone walls. This reminded us of Colares where Ramisco is grown in similar enclosures although planted in clay deep under a layer of sand with the vine canes and leaves resting on the surface there.
The London Wine Fair seemed more buoyant this year. The move back to Olympia has been a success. Again we resolved to do more preparation next time and spend longer there, maybe taking in some of the interesting talks on offer.