A spring afternoon brought around the Laithwaites/Sunday Times annual Vintage Wine Festival.   I have been meaning to go to this in the past but never had chance, but I know it will not be the last time I go.

I am having building and decorating work done in the house and the plasters were ion on that day, so a perfect day to be out.  I left home and headed for the station and spent the hour on the train working out which stalls I wanted to go to and which wines to try.
There were over 250 wines to try, so a plan was needed in terms of what to try, rather than a random approach.  Basically, what I was going to try and do were only taste wines that I had no had before and to try anything different, in terms of styles or grapes that I had not head or in some cases heard of!
By the time I arrived in to London Bridge I had a very good selection I wanted to try.  After a short still out of the station and on to the Bridge I could see quite a big queue waiting outside the venue.  The festival was at Old Billingsgate, Lower Thames Street, so I knew I would be able to see it on the walk over the bridge.  Got to confess my heart sank a little as it looked very long, but I got there and joined the back of it.  The good news is that they were letting people in a little early and within 5 minutes I was inside.
I was greeted by a very big space with lots of market type stalls.  My first port of call was to the little ticket desk to sign up for one of the tasting events.  I went for the Riedel – Power of the Glass Session, more on that in a bit.
Then it was off around the stalls.  They were all sorted in terms of Countries and regions.  I picked up my tasting glass and headed to France.  I will list at the bottom all of the wines I tried and my score out of 10 for them.  This is all subjective and only my opinion.
As I carried on going round I was conscious that I had the Riedel session and also entry to the Fine Wine Room, so I was trying to pace myself about, after all the first taste was at 11 am.
After a few very good and interesting tasters I headed to the Riedel session.  Basically, this was to try and demonstrate the difference a glass can make on the enjoyment of a wine.  Riedel do varietal specific glasses and I have some of their ‘O’ range so was interested to see whether or not a glass can make a difference.  This was the only tasting session where there was a charge, which was £20, but for that you got 3 red wine glasses from their Vinum XL range.
After a brief intro about Riedel we picked up the glasses and learnt more about them and as they were lead crystal they also make a beautiful sound when tapped.  All sounding different and I did think you could play a tune on a good selection of them.
Anyway, on to the wine.  We had 2 different ones to try and the basic principal was to try one in the correct glass and then transfer to another one to see the difference.  I have to say there was quite a difference, a lot of it being on the nose, but also on the palette.  The palette element is due to the shape of the top of the glass and the way it delivers it in to the mouth.  When we tried the right wine in the wrong glass you could tell a difference and I expect to a wine buff the difference would be really large and you might not want to drink it.  To me, it was an obvious difference, but not one where I would send the wine back, although the enjoyment would not be as high if it had been in the right glass.
Following on from that session I headed to the Fine Wine.  Again this was extra (bought in advance), but it was well worth it.  Their were wines that I would never be able to try under normal conditions so was a great experience.  Put it this way I started with a Pol Roger 2002 Blanc de Blancs and the next stall was Bollinger and further round was one from Lafite.
The big lesson I learnt was that at the moment my palette is not sophisticated enough to pick up the complexities of some of the French wines, but it was great tasting them.  I did however fall in love with a lovely Penfolds Shiraz, which was my sort of wine, full of flavour, fruit and some oomph!  I knew I prefer New World wine but that confirmed it, but having said that I am trying to educate my palette and to appreciate the Old World ones more as well.  At this point I will say that I liked all of the Old World wines, but the New World blew me away.
36 different drinks tasted!  If you get to the end of the list hopefully you will see that I tried lots of different things and pretty much did a world tour in 3 1/2 hours

Waiting to go in
Just part of the show
Entrance to the Fine Wine Room
The tasting glass
Riedel tasting session – Vinum XL glasses
Rose Champagne anyone?
Showing off more of the show
The Fine Wine Room
This is the list and a few comments where I could note them.  Wines in order of tasting:

  • Loire – Domaine Michel Thomas Silex 2012 – Sancerre.  Lovely nose, lightly fruity – 6
  • Le Chai au Quai – La Voute 2012, vin de France – Chardonnay.  Very Chardonnay on the nose and great to drink – 7
  • Sussex – Ridgeview Estate – South Ridge Blanc de Blancs 2010 – Fizz on the tongue, but not in the glass – 5
  • Champagne – Laithwaite Brut Premier Cru – Biscuity toastie on the nose, limited fizz – 6
  • Now for Something Completely Different – Tbilvino Saperavi 2011, Kakhetti – Plums, very smooth, intriguing and different – 7 – I think this is this the one I would say was best value for money
  • Riedel Session – Hurtadao Pinot Noir Reserva 2011 – Casablanca – 6
  • Riedel Session – Vina Tarapaca – Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – Maipo Valley – 7
The following were from the Fine Wine Room
  • Champagne – Champagne Pol Roger Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2002 – biscuity, creamy and very lush!  – 9 My best fizz of the show
  • Champagne – Champagne Pol Roger Vintage Rose 2004 – very smooth, not like any other Rose, as in I could easily drink bottle of it – 7
  • Champagne – Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee – NV – 7
  • Champagne – Champagne Bollinger Brut Rose – 8
  • Champagne – Bollinger La Grande Annee 2004 – 8
  • Loire – Domaine Alphonse Mellot Generation 2012 – Sancerre – First taste was just WOW – 8.5
  • Loire – Domaine Alphonse Mellot La Moussiere Rouge 2001 – Sancerre – My first red Sancerre, Old World Pinot Noir, quite thin & light colour  – 7
  • Maison Joseph Drouhin 2011, Cotes de Beaune – 6
  • Maison Joseph Drouhin 2011, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru – 7
  • Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix Chateau Bourgneuf 2006, Pomerol – 8
  • Maison M Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Blanc 2011, Hermitage – Favourite white of the show – 9
  • Maison M Chapoutier Monier de La Sizeranne 2011, Hermitage – A wine to taste properly, not slurp!  7.5
  • Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – Chateau d’Aussières 2009, Corbieres – 8
  • Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1990, Pauillac AOC, 1er Grand Cru Classe – Empty bottle alone worth over £200, full bottle is in 4 figures!  Amazing nose but good for me I did not think was best in show, would be an expensive habit!  – 8
  • Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – Chateau Rieussec 2007, Sauternes AOC 1er GRand Cru Classe – Amazing balanced Sauternes, lovely and syrupy not over sweet – 9
  • Marchesi Antinori, Antinori Gervaro della Sala Umbria 2011 – 90% Chardonnay – 8
  • Marchesi Antinori, Antinori Tignanello 2010, Toscana IGT – Needs ageing – 7
  • Sabinares y Vinas – Sabinaras Blanco de Guarda 2011, Arlanza DO – 9
  • Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2012, Coonawarra – Very good 7.5
  • Penfolds Bin 138 2012, Barossa – Better – 8
  • Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2009, South Australia – 9.5 – Best in show for me.  Found out there are a few bottles left, but a bit beyond my wallet, but a 2010 is on it’s way which is meant to be even better (with ageing)
  • Ridge Estate Cabernet Merlot 2010, Santa Cruz – Nothing wrong with it but average to me – 5.5
  • Ridge Monte Bello 2010, Santa Cruz – Questions around the value for money on this, £81 per bottle.  Based on VFM – 7
So that was the end of the Fine Wine Room so back to the others:
  • Pillitteri Estates Vidal Icewine 2012, Niagra on the Lake VQA
  • Orchard Pig Cider – Truffler – 8
  • Weingut Stift Gottweig Gruner Veltliner Gottweiger Berg 2012, Kremsatl DAC – 7
  • Naegele Fass No.98 Riesling Trocken 2013, Pflaz Qualitatswein – 8
New Zealand
  • Hunter’s Gewurztraminer 2011, Marlborough – 9
South Africa
  • Bergsig – The Bulldozer Pinotage 2013, Breedekloof WO – Stunningly good Pinotage, made me think of a curry all the way home.  This is my favourite wine type with a curry.  I got this taster just as they said that was time! – 8.5

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