The Best of the London International Wine Fair 2010 part 2

June 21, 2010

The Best of the London International Wine Fair 2010 Part 2

So having had over two weeks to recover; we can get back to the tales of the LIWF!

I previously mentioned the ‘Wine Gang’. They describe themselves as: “A unique collaboration between five of the UK’s leading wine critics.” Their aim? “Our comprehensive assessment of wines in the UK will help you buy smarter and drink better.”

Now this is essentially a very good idea. These 5 journalists have combined their powers to create a web site that reviews most of the liquid available on UK shelves. It is great if you want to know what is popular/rated/affordable/on-offer although subscription involves a yearly fee of £19.99.

The journalists points of view are valid and the website is well made but you still have agree with or at least appreciate their coalition. Tim Atkins seems to head the group and he does a great job (already being heavily involved with the IWC) promoting better wines. The other writers are a little more subdued; all, that is, but for Olly Smith. From my perspective he is full of front with no substance. I am sure the man knows a good wine but he seems more interested pretending he is continuously presenting ‘Iron Chef’. It could be the blinding grin, the posh accent or the orange face; I am still undecided.

Their stand at the show ‘The Top 100’ was a display of high quality wines from all corners of the world. It is another great place to go if you fancy a relaxed but focused tasting, and other than the smiling promo girls trying to flog you a subscription, it is a great snapshot of the show.
There were many gorgeous things that caught my fancy but I will avoid listing them as the info required is already on the wine gang website:

So now on to the part I enjoy the most at these big shows: the smaller producers with their variety of hidden treasures!

The three wineries I would like to showcase are Mont Tauch, Ken Forrester and Willi Opitz. The first two are old favourites and the third is a very new and exciting discovery!

* Mont Tauch are a southern French cooperative winery based in the Fitou area. For years they have produced a variety of rich full-bodied reds that are very adapted to the UK market. At the show I was taken through their new range which, with the consumer in mind, is divided into three selections.

The entry-level are labelled ‘Fresh and Fruity’, ‘Smooth and Fruity’ and ‘Full bodied and spicy’. These are very self-explanatory and ideal for people who are unfamiliar with wines from the Fitou.
The second level of wines is the Cellar reserve these are all Fitou’s but the difference between them is the area they were grown in (Maritime, Altitude and Altitude Old Vines)
The premium range gets seriously yummy! These are single vineyard wines showing great individual characteristics. They are all very dark and dense with full-on berry fruit, well integrated oak and coffee/chocolate notes on the finish. Out of the three (Montluzis, Le Tauch and Les Hauts de Pazilos) the Montluzis was my favourite as the bigger use of the Grenache grape makes it that touch more elegant and sophisticated.

I have always loved Mont Tauch having harvested there and witnessed the great quality standards in wine making. They make most of the Fitou on sale in the UK so if you have not tried any yet then TRY SOME!

* Ken Forrester has been a major influence in the making of high quality white wines in South Africa since the eighties. Working mainly with Chenin Blanc he makes clean crisp opulent honey scented wines that are extremely good value for money and available in Major retailers across the UK. His ‘KF Chenin Blanc’, and ‘Petit Chenin’ are very quaffable good-all-rounders however the one every body wants to try is ‘the FMC’.
The FMC is Ken’s attempt at making ‘the best white wine in the world’. I could not say that he has quite achieved this accolade yet but this liquid is not the less delectable.
This off-dry Chenin Blanc is golden in colour, with an inviting nose showing fresh tropical fruit drizzled in honey. The palate continues with balanced honey, fresh fruit (passion fruit, quince?) and then moves on to a subtle spice finish. This is a GREAT wine for food match providing hours of fun (in moderation..). No current UK listing but could prove to be the perfect ‘.com’ addition (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more).

While I was at the KF stand, Ken himself turned up. It was 6pm and then end of the show and the ushers were trying their hardest to get the days punters to go home. Ken was enthusing about a stand he had just visited, “Go see Willi Opitz”, he said, “I wager he makes some of the best sweet wines in the world”.
So off I ran.

* Willi Opitz was really the highlight of the show for me. I don’t think I have ever met a more passionate, excentric and enthusiastic winemaker. As I approached the stand Willi was packing up while complaining that the austrian officails in charge of this part of the show had told him off for being too popular. “The government is against me for having too many people at my stand[ …] how can they criticize me for being to popular!”

Having won the IWC award for Best Late Harvest Winemaker in 1997 Willi Opitz has been making amazing quality Austrian wines for the last 20 years. He started out as an amateur during the Austrian wine crisis, experimenting in a plot behind his house, since then he has made wine for Bill Clinton, the McClaren racing team and supplies 10 out of 11 Austrian wines on sale at Harrods.

Despite the fact the show was officially over our host was very willing to let us taste the wines so we whipped through them quickly.

We discovered a selection of late harvest or ice wines made from a variety of grapes from Zweigelt and Pinot Noir to Pinot Gris and Riesling, all beautifully made and very distinct in character. The tasting was based on trying these sweetie delights with a chose food to match. We had the Ice wine with chocolate moose, the Pinot Gris with Vanilla Panna Cotta cream and a sweet red with blue cheese.
The combinations were divine. To taste the wine and then try it again with a complimenting good flavour really showed the thought behind each bottle.

As we were ushered out of the show Willi managed to give us his DVD (he has also recorded a CD of the sounds coming from fermenting wines in the cellar) and renamed himself ‘Austrian Public Enemy number 1’. With such skill and passion the man is definitely an excentric if not a wine genius and I look forward to seeing new things coming from his winery.

And with that flurry of Austrian exuberance we come to the end of our tales of the London Wine Fair 2010. It is a great event, but unfortunately not open to the general public. My advice? Get a job in the wine trade!


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