19 May 2006

London International Wine Fair

I SPENT yesterday ambling between trajectories at the London International Wine Fair. Situated in ExCeL(^), in the badlands of the Docklands, this Belgrano-like hangar each year plays host to suited figures from all over the globe (except representatives of English Wine who presumably can't afford the outrageous stand prices). The prodigious wine writer Jamie Goode summed-up in plain terms the big-brand domination in his blog:

"On the whole they are peddling uninteresting commercial dross. I guess the world needs commercial dross, but it doesn’t really interest me. For those seeking interesting wines, perhaps the best rule of thumb is this: the grander the stand the duller the wine."

There were pleasant suprises however - here are some of my favourites...

Deinhard Sekt Riesling
[£5.99, widely available]
Not a fine old thing, but a dry, grapey, sound alternative to Prosecco and something which shows off Riesling's versatility.

Ayala 'Zero Dosage' Brut Nature NV [£25.49, Noel Young]
With this Champagne style no sugar is added after disgorgement, making it the ideal choice of jockeys. Cleaner than normal Ayala and not made every year. Bollinger on a budget and good to see Ayala in fine fettel - no longer the preserve of 'Trust House Forte' hotels.

Cuvee Baron Albert Rose Brut NV
Pleasing, fairly full-flavoured, jovial enough and a great palate cleanser to the range of Bakelite and ash Uruguayan Tannat's my colleague and I massochistically-masticated over.

Moscato Blanco Aurora [www]
The poor chap on the Brasil stand took some pounding over his wines. Snobbism and nationalism still rules in wine. This grapey, Asti-like fizz had integrity, albeit serve on the right occasion.

Saxenburg Guinea Fowl Chenin/Viogner 2003 [stockists]
A startlingly agile, Mandarin oranges and precise verdant lawn-tasting wine from the charming, honest and modest winemaker Nico van der Merwe. The best white of the event I tasted. The South Africans are the new Australians, even though winemaking in SA dates further back - to 1659.

Cloof Cabernet Franc/Sauvignon/Merlot 2003 [www]
This 'crucible' (meaning adversity, the estate literally being a bowl of heat) near Darling, seems obsessed by aviation - at least three of the range having been selected for BA, Swiss Air and SAA. A charged wine, although quite international in style. Where is SA going? -Hopefully she will balance international demand without losing her homegrown distinctive style. Just a thought, but I'd love to see some Carmenere planted in the cape, just to see what would happen... The Cloof Rose 2005 is also very good, the literature of the winemaker accurately capturing what I experienced: "...the perfect balance between complexity and frivolity..."

Parparoussis, Muscat de Rio Patras 2003
[£16.99, Vickbar]
Part of an intriguingly weird and wonderful portfolio of Greek sweeties, this curio made from open-air dried fruit had a poignant Geranium-stalk tang and a well-balanced, refreshing acidity.


Blackwoods '60' Gin [£24.99, drinkon.com]
Pale green in colour, this delightful, cinammon-scented gin is from the salt-crusted shores of Lerwick. A classic Martini gin.