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Day 2 began with a very interesting debate from Harpers as part of their ‘Engage the Consumer’ forum. Chaired by Harpers Editor Richard Siddle, a panel of wine professionals was assembled to express their opinions and answer questions from the audience.
Andy Phelps – BWS (Beer, Wine, Spirits) Manager, Sainsbury’s; Ian Anderson – Wine Insight Manager, Accolade Wines; Steven Finch – Owner, Vagabond Wines; Helen McGinn – Wine Consultant/Blogger www.knackeredmotherswineclub.blogspot.co.uk; Christina Pickard – Braodcaster/Blogger www.winewithchristina.co.uk and finally Joe Wadsack – Ex Winemaker, Buyer, Broadcaster and Blogger www.joewadsack.com.
The aim of the forum was to allow visitors the opportunity to pick up tips, or best practises, in ways to help customers understand wine. The overall outcome was that wine should be more fun for the consumer. Another point that came across by the majority was that the wine trade would be better served in trying to understand the customers needs before anything else. Andy Phelps was a surprise for me. My past encounter with a Sainsbury’s big wig was all about ego, self promotion and totally avoiding the question. That person will have a fine career as a politician, should they decide to give up the day job. Andy answered honestly. He did say that he’d only been in the BWS category for 6 months, which means, from my point of view, he hasn’t been corrupted by corporate crap. As a major supermarket employee he makes the time and takes the effort to talk to customers around the country. Good work fella.
A quick skip across the hall I went to try Villa Maria’s new slightly sparkling wine. Made from Marlborough Sauvignon the wine was very clean and fresh without masses of fruit. The light fizz did give a very dry finish, a point that was disagreed with by a fellow taster. Half the fun of tasting chaps. All about opinions. This wine will be a good alternative to Prosecco but it is only available in certain outlets in the UK whilst supplier, Hatch Mansfield ‘test the water’. At a very reasonable £9.99 RRP, it should do well.
Following on from this I tried numerous wines from Hatch Mansfield, including New Zealand’s Villa Maria Waiarau Sauvignon and Vidal Reserve Sauvignon. Chile’s Errazuriz Aconcagua Sauvignon and their entry level Sauvignon. From South Africa, and a winery everyone should take a peek at, Lourensford Wines. I worked my way through all 12 on show including a beautiful Chardonnay from the Winemaker range. The balance between fruit and oak was superb whilst maintaining clean, fresh acidity.
English wines, as we know, have been hitting the press for all the right reason in recent months so it made sense to me to take a look at a few. I wandered on down to Litmus Wines, a company which is based at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, UK. I tasted two wines from Element 20, the first a finished wine, which is available from the winery, selected outlets around the UK, US and Holland. The second a tank sample. The 2010 Element 20 is a blend of 50% Bacchus – 50% Chardonnay, aged in barrel whilst kept in contact with the lees (dead yeast cells). The wine has a light wheat aroma but a very clean and fresh palate. Not a huge amount of fruit. Definitely a summer wine.
Following on from these were two sparklers, White Downs, a blend of Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc. Lovely soft bubbles with clean fresh fruit. The other fizz, Greenfields. A wine produced using the traditional method and employing Champagne varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A lot more fuller fruit on the nose and palate. Crisp apple finish.
Credit where it’s due. Litmus had also been showing experimental wines, all tank samples. A small batch of Pinot Gris, which may get used for blending; 100% Pinot Noir – barrel aged in new and old French oak; a Bordeaux blend of 90% Merlot – 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, high in acidity with noticeable green asparagus aromas, needs some work; sweet, botryitis Ortega, very subtle and lastly a WHITE Pinot Noir. Yup, white!! Aged again in new and old French wood. This helps give the wine some lift and body, high in acidity but they will drop over time. Not bad.
Thus ends day 2. Another slog to the other side of London tomorrow for the climax where I’ll actually do some serious tasting.