With less than two weeks to go until the London Festival of Wine, and all of our exhibitors having declared what wines they will be pouring, a brief run-through of just some of the wines that have caught my eye:
The Quirky and Off-piste
The London Festival is a treasure trove for those seeking new grape varieties, new regions and unexpected wine styles. You could kick off with The Wine Society and their Uruguyan Tannat from Pisano, an unexpected delight at under £8, or head straight for The Daily Drinker where almost everything marches to a different beat, from Croatian Malvazija to Macedonian Vranac. Another cornucopia of the unsual graces the Theatre of Wine‘s table with six wines from Kasakhstan’s top estate, and a further six from Romania’s superstar, Avincis. Lymington’s Solent Cellar is not to be outdone, and I look forward to trying Australia’s first ever Assyrtiko from Jim Barry. Continuing our tour of the unexpected, Rude Wines offers an Israeli Syrah and yet another Uruguyan red, whilst SWiG will be pouring a white Tempranillo and Sparkling Fernão Pires – from South Africa!
We’re delighted to have so many of the world’s best wine estates taking a stand at the Festival, some manned by the winemakers themselves. Kicking off in the Southern Hemisphere, two brilliant estates from Marlborough in New Zealand: Kevin Judd’s Greywacke, and Riverby Estate where CEO Kevin Courtney will join us. From South Africa we have no fewer than four great wineries: Chenin Blanc Maestro Ken Forrester, Waterford Estate (who’ll be pouring their £95 icon wine, ‘The Jem’), the historic and bang on form KWV and Seven Springs, where owners Tim and Vaughan Pearson will greet you. Australia is represented by one of my favourite estates of Margaret River, McHenry Hohnen, and South American flags will be flown by Carmelita of Argentina (meet English owners James and Nicola Codling) and Viu Manent, who farm 150 hectares of 100-year-old vines in Chile.
Europe is equally well represented too of course. From France, Champagne Piper-Heidsieck is on a rich seam of form right now with some brilliant wines, as is their neighbour, Champagne Deutz, one of the oldest members of Champagne’s prestigious Grandes Marques. Bonfils Vins & Châteaux is a family company making superb wines in the Languedoc, and do not miss Quinta do Noval, an absolute star name of the Douro Valley with their prestigious Port wines. Finally, EVOINOS is a small group of the best and most progressive producers of the island of Cyprus, and their table will surprise and delight.
The Fine Wines
It’s tough to define ‘Fine Wine’, but whatever it is, there’s no doubt we have it in abundance at the Festival! Every table will have its share of course, with rare and expensive wines on tasting, but we’ve a starry collection of specialist fine wine merchants too: Fine + Rare wine will be pouring Chãteau Belle Brise 2015, one of the rarest Pomerols at a cool £139 per bottle, and the CloudBurst Chardonnay, a £135 true ‘cult’ wine from Margaret River that has burst onto the scene in the last year or two. Bacchus Wine Auctions will be opening some 1971 Grand Cru Burgundy Echezeaux which should be fascinating, as will the wines from The Vinorium who will give you a chance to taste several beautifully mature Australian icons like the Henschke ‘Cyril’ Cabernet 2000 or the Two Hands ‘My Hands’ 2005 – retailing at £180 per bottle. Albany Vintners also has a mouth-watering selection focused on Bordeaux and Burgundy, whilst the 1985 Port from Warre’s might just be the perfect Christmas treat with a chunk of Stilton – try it on the Hard to Find Wines stand.
The One Track Minds
Some of our exhibitors are highly specialised, so a visit to their stands at the Festival is a fantastic chance for an in-depth exploration of certain regions or styles with the friendly experts behind the tables. Domaine Direct isn’t 100% focused on Burgundy, but they are one of the country’s most revered Burgundy specialists and six of their 12 Festival wines prove why. M-Wines on the other hand is a fascinating project working directly in partnership with winemakers from around the world on their niche range of strictly limited edition wines. Joie de Vin is also a merchant where personal connection to their small portfolio of Loire, Roussillon and Burgundy producers is all-important. The Organic Wine Club does what it says on the tin, dealing exclusively in organic and biodynamic wines. Next up, we’ve a whole table full of wines from the prestigious Ribera del Duero appellation in northern Spain, home of some spectacular red wines, and over on the Arthouse Wines stand, you will find a selection of artisan Italian wines, sourced directly from organic vineyards. Finally, 20h33, an Anglo-French collaboration, presenting a selection of wines drawn exclusive from some of Bordeaux and England’s best estates.
The World of Choice
Others among our roll-call of 42 superb exhibitors are demonstrating the breadth and quality of their range, spanning everyday drinking to special occasion splurges. I’ll kick off with The Vino Beano, pouring a great example of the ‘new’ high quality Lambrusco and a mini-range tasting of California’s cult Authentique Wine Cellars, or move on to Barwell & Jones who have a couple of wines from one of my favourite Portuguese estates, Herdade do Esporão. Over at From Vineyards Direct, taste a range of hand-picked and directly imported wines spanning France to South Africa, while Genesis Wines shows a classy Prosecco with zero residual sugar, and some real terroir wines from Alfredo Arribas in Spain. As well as some cracking wines, Honest Grapes has their innovative ‘Taste Lab Kit’:10 x 50cl test tubes of excellent wines designed to add just a smidgen of science to a love of wine. If you haven’t tried Majestic‘s excellent quality range of classy upmarket own labels, head straight for them, or investigate Mr Wheeler‘s selection, from a lovely Rosé de Provence to a sweet Australian ‘sticky’. Richmond Wine Agencies represents some cracking producers, with three wines from Botham Merrill Willis for example, where cricketing superstars and wine lovers Ian Botham and Bob Willis have a genuine hand in creating the wines along with ace winemaker Geoff Merrill.
Learning, trading, winning!
Two contrasting but equally brilliant wine educators will grace the Festival. Sipologist Social is the brainchild of Mandy Stevens, who after 10 years in the wine industry has designed a highly original programme of “Laid back wine tasting and training days,” with wine tasting experiments that embrace science, maths, geography and even music. Visit the stand of one of the world’s most highly regarded schools for all the culinary arts, Le Cordon Bleu, where Master Sommelier Matthieu Longuere will show you why their London wine programmes are some of the most innovative and professional in the UK. Last – and certainly not least – Festival of Wine Sponsor Wine Owners is for everyone who loves and collects fine wine, providing a unique online platform to manage your collection, track your wines and their value, and buy and sell with fellow wine lovers. What’s more, they’ll be running a fun and informal blind-tasting challenge: have a guess at identifying our mystery wine and you might win a bottle of Champagne!
It’s going to be am amazing tasting opportunity, and remember almost all of our exhibitors are offering exclusive discounts to purchase Festival wines at up to 20% off for purchases and home deliveries. See Exhibitors & wines.