Sunday, 3 December 2017

Wine Gang Winter Festival, Connaught Rooms, Covent Garden

Jane Parkinson, Joanna Simon, Anthony Rose and David Williams, esteemed wine writers formed The Wine Gang over 10 years ago for the purpose of helping consumers buy smarter and drink better. To this end they have established the UK's most in-depth, totally independent database listing thousands of wines. They also publish a blog and reports.

Not least they organise what has been called 'Britain's brightest, friendliest wine festivals, buzzing with enthusiastic wine lovers.' Their event organiser is Louise Vaux who seems to work tirelessly to bring festivals to Leeds, Edinburgh, Bath and Birmingham as well as London.

It's a remarkable initiative unprecedented for wine writers we believe.

The winter wine festival at the Connaught rooms in London didn't lack interest for our somewhat esoteric criteria.

Malbec is so ubiquitous in Argentina they are now even making white wine from it. This example from Gourvid, a UK based company with Argentinian partners wishing to position their wines in Europe.

There was a fun stand from the Cordon Bleu cookery school. Matthieu Longuere, Master Sommelier and winner of the Best UK Sommelier award is the Wine Development Manager and had a irresistible method of getting your attention - and email address. He had devised a quiz with a number of anonymous bottles and you had to guess the contents with the possibility of winning a prize. We remember a bone-dry Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc, an English Pinot Noir and last but not least a liqueur made from Tomatoes! Needless to say we failed to identify any of these but we were charmed to meet Matthieu who is a fantastically modest, friendly and humorous person.

Napa Valley was represented so along we went to enquire how it was going following the terrible fires. The report was of course mixed but there is no doubt these people will get back on their feet again  as soon as humanly possible.

We took advantage of their generous selection to taste Montelena's Cabernet Sauvignon - not something we would have had the opportunity of doing outside this fair.

At the Vinorium stand ('the largest stockists of mature Australian wines in Europe, if not outside Australia') we tasted a 1928 Maury Solera fortified wine (Grenache white and red) from the Languedoc (here catalogued as Argentina for some reason).

The Solera system involves the ageing of different vintages which are then transferred along the line to the oldest barrels from which an amount has been extracted for bottling. There is therefore a significant amount of the oldest wine in every bottling since the barrels are never emptied and never wines mix gradually with more mature ones on their way to bottling.

For us the star of the show was Wine Sensations, an importer recently set up by Richard Dudley Craig who is a well known figure in the wine and restaurant world. rumoured to have been a chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant at one point.

Charmingly enthusiastic, Richard Dudley Craig wants only to sell you wine he would want to drink himself. His wines have indeed been hailed for their immense drinkability and so it was that we discovered his Bourdy Cotes du Jura - a blend of Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir of such charm that we bought 6 bottles at the earliest oportunity.

Such is the enthusiasm for Mr. Dudley Craig for you to receive your order that he sends you the wine first and bills you after. Unprecedented in our experience.

Also from Bourdy were a Chardonnay and a Savignin.

Wine Sensations' calling card is their agency for Domaine Jones, the Fitou estate set up by Katie Jones in 2008. Ms. Jones had lived and worked in the Languedoc for many years but this was her first effort at making wine. Successful from the start, she has overcome all kinds of obstacles to make this fine range of wines which are now enjoying almost classic status.

Williams, Parkinson, Rose and Simon

The festival provided a great opportunity to try wines one would otherwise not have tasted, meet delightful wine professionals and make some great discoveries.

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