The annual portfolio tasting held by Fields, Morris & Verdin, the 20th anniversary celebration tasting held by Liberty Wines and an Iberian showcase held by Enotria & Coe were chock-full of the world’s top winemakers showing off the most amazing wines. All events were also teeming with influential wine buyers.
So many new wines, so many top winemakers. Below we attend a Rioja masterclass at Enotria & Coe’s Iberian Influencers tasting, pick some of the highlights from FMV’s Grand Portfolio Tasting, then do a round-up of Liberty Wines’ 20th Anniversary Tasting.
If anyone ever doubted that London is the wine capital of the world, then they should have been here this week (beginning June 12). The new wines on show and the winemakers who made it to the capital to show off new releases was extraordinary.
When you walk past an array of Vega Sicilia’s new releases and you think ‘I just don’t have the time to do these wines’ then you know that the tasting you’ve already spent half a day at, and the one you are hurrying to are pretty special occasions.
Even more incredibly, there was another spectacular tasting of Mediterranean wines held on the same day by Hallgarten, Druitt & Novum that will be covered in a separate piece.
Top Rioja at Enotria & Coe’s Iberian Influencers Tasting
The week started in blinding fashion with a 1964, 1982 and 2010 Gran Reserva from Ramón Bilbao being poured by winemaker Rosana Lisa, and it wasn’t even 11 o’clock yet on a Monday morning.
Any week that starts with a 1964 Gran Reserva is going to be a good one and so it has proved. What was so standout about the 1964 compared to the 1982 was how much fresher the older wine was and how much deeper the colour. Both wines were showing plenty of tertiary evolution with flavours of jammy fruit, liquorice, ripe stone-fruit, coffee. The 1982 had more complexity, was light brick red and had leather and a smoke note in the flavour profile.
Enotria & Coe have 15 bottles of each wine available on a first-come-first-served basis. Personally I would go for the 1964. Weirdly it still has some distance to go.
Neither of these wines were made by Rosana Lisa but the 2010, which is one of hers was drinking well. A clean, medium, well balanced wine with obvious woody tannins and fruit-forward flavours of cherries, black fruit, vanilla, coffee and chocolate.
This vertical stood alongside a horizontal from Sierra Cantabria with winemaker Marcos Eguren showing four contrasting Riojas from 2007 – the Senoro de San Vicente, Rioja Amancio, Finca el Bosque and Rioja Coleccion Privada.
The style of Eguren’s wines is so different to Lisa’s – with the altitude and winemaking style bringing much more marked acidity into the wines. The Rioja Amancio should really be drunk in about 20 years. It is all red fruit, balsamic, herb notes and it was hard to get past the structure and mouth-puckering tannins. For me the stars were the Senoro de San Vicente and Finca El Bosque.
Senoro de San Vicente 2007 is made with 100% Tempranillo Peludo from low-yielding vines which brings an intense aroma to the wine. There was a terrific poise to the wine with marked, well-integrated tannin. The fruit was nice and bright with notes of balsamic, coffee, chocolate, liquorice and herbs.
The Finca El Bosque 2007 which comes from an unique 1.4 hectare vineyard with strata of gravel and clay is a heady balance of opulence and elegance. There are floral notes amongst the big, intense power of the fruit but what really marks it out are the rough textures, the freshness and a length that seems to go on for ever.
2007 was not an easy vintage in Rioja but Eguren proved that he could still deliver concentration, power and elegance in these wines.
The tasting was a masterclass that kicked off a day of tasting at the Victoria branch of Iberica. The eight winemakers that flew over for the event, used to showcase Enotria & Coe’s re-vamped Iberian range, also featured Julian Chivite, Franck Massard, La Guita, Abadia Retuerta, Fillaboa and Valerian.
Craven Wines one of the new wineries on show at FMV’s Grand Portfolio Tasting
Even without some of their top marquee names present, Fields, Morris & Verdin’s portfolio is an embarrassment of riches. With their fifth portfolio tasting titled ‘Grand Portfolio Tasting’ the wines and winemakers on show collectively do indeed have a noble quality to them – like the wine importer equivalent of the Ottoman Empire – each corner of the globe scoured for the very best riches.
By FMV staging this event so close to Vinexpo it was clear that some of the winemakers’ long-haul journeys had been done to accommodate this event and Bordeaux that starts from this weekend, a clever strategy because the top floor of Millbank Tower was crawling with some of the world’s best winemakers, almost all of them personally taking charge of their tables.
Even with half a day spent at both FMV and the Liberty tasting you came away only having just scratched the surface.
At FMV the new winery additions to the portfolio are wines from Mullineux & Leeu Family wines, Constantia Glen, Richard Kershaw, Mustiguillo from Valencia and Lyrarakis in Crete.
Other new winemakers are Jeanine and Mick Craven from Stellenbosch who were showing two new wines – a Cinsaut and ‘finally’ a Chenin Blanc. Both wines, and the 2016 vintage of their Clairette Blanche, Pinot Noir and two Syrah, display the Cravens’ love of non-intervention winemaking style and making fresh, light wines.
The Cinsaut is bottled early to capture the brightness of the fruit. The Chenin has some nice rough texture and saltiness.
Good too to taste the Faure and Firs Vineyard Syrah side by side. Both wines are identically made except for the two types of soil grown in, which results in two distinctly different wines. Price-wise these wines are great value (£11.90-£14.65 wholesale price).
Vineyard differentiation marks out the four Chardonnays from California’s Ramey Wine Cellars – showing the coastal influence of four sites from Sonoma Coast, Carneros and two vineyards in Russian River Valley.
David Ramey who was manning the table said that the UK was one of their top export markets “Although it feels like it was easier to sell wine under Obama and Bush rather than Trump. It’s a bit too early to tell but it isn’t going to do us any good.” He relayed how the fall in sterling has meant he is now “giving a better price.”
Other highlights of the tasting included Hambledon’s stunning Première Cuvée that Ian Kellett wants to “make the best English sparkling wine, every year.”
The Classic Cuvée Rosé has also settled down since I first tried it six months ago and is a delicious red-fruit driven delight.
The wines from Nikolaihof, Wachau Austria were all showing well. Plenty of quirky things from what was one of the world’s first biodynamic wineries. Winemaker Nikolaus Saahs explained he has just planted 1500 more vines of the ancient Austrian varietal Neuberger “Because I like it.” This would be great in a trendy Shoreditch wine bar – funky and spicy – as would his two Grüner Veltliner, particularly the unfiltered Zwickl which was very original.
The grapes were harvested in 2000 and the wine has spent 16 years in 3500 litre casks. The wine is Kabinet-sweet, layered, textured, complex, ethereal. With a wholesale price of £78.40 this would be great to have on a Coravin and a real USP for on-trade.
Two ranges that regularly show well and are worth noting. Waterford Estate produces elegant, precise wines from Stellenbosch. Their second vintage of Grenache Noir or “Stellenbosch Pinot” as winemaker Mark Le Roux describes it is a distinctive, light take. Their best performing wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon also has an attractive lean quality and lovely texture. Kevin Arnold Shiraz is more fruit-driven and spicy but still fresh and the 2011 of their top-end, 8-varietal blend The Jem was also showing very well.
I also have a big soft spot for Ridge Vineyards in California who make Zinfandel that wuld make many a critic rethink heir position on the grape. The East Bench, Sonoma County has a real lean, fresh edge to its contemporary style, although the 50th Anniversary 2015 Geyserville feels as though it has been given special attention and has a front label that will help move it in on and off-trade. Always nice to try a barrel sample of Monte Bello although the wine is disjointed at this stage of its life.
The Liberty Wines 20th Anniversary Tasting was positively teeming
So, having to race past Vega Sicilia’s table, and many more in order to make it to Liberty Wines 20th Anniversary Tasting, I get to the OXO Tower to find a room humming with exactly what I’ve left – some of the world’s top wines presented by some of the world’s top winemakers.
First person I bumped into was critic Anthony Rose who enthused “If I ever get to Heaven it will hopefully look something like this.”
Given this was a 20th anniversary Liberty had asked each of their wineries to bring just two wines – one that represented the past, their most traditional wine and one which pointed to the future.
Some estates had raided their library stock so, quite apart from a slew of amazing new releases we were treated to a 1997 Flaccianello della Pieve from Fontodi that had an attractive bretty quality, a 1967 Brunello from Conti Costanti, Käferberg Kamptal Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2010, Beacon Shiraz 2009 from Fairview, Blaufränkisch 2004 from Heinrich, Blanc de Blancs 2003 Magnum from Nyetimber. And so on.
Given that when Liberty Wines first started trading 20 years ago 60% of its 40-producer list was from Italy, there was still a sizeable Italian contingent. Great to see the likes of Giuseppe Vajra rubbing shoulders with Franco Conterno and Franco Massolino.
There were many many highlights. Kevin Judd’s Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2014 feels as though it has settled down into the right place after what I thought were inconsistent years in 2011 and 2012. His Pinot Noir 2014 was stunning.
I also really enjoyed the Corton-Renardes Grand Cru 2013 from Jane Eyre, the two Burn Cottage Pinots from Central Otago and possibly my wine of the entire tasting, the ‘Geyersberg’ Riesling Trocken 2012 from Dreissigacker that has 80 hours of maceration and wild ferment. Stunning wine.
Hard to think that when David Gleave started the company the Spice Girls were number 1, John Major was PM, Barack Obama was a newly elected senator in Illinois and Donald Trump was a publicity seeking property developer in New York. How times have changed!
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