2 Jul 2008

Eel in My Glass

AS PART of East London’s Tapas Fantasticas festival, I wormed my way into a talk by Olly Smith, scriptwriter turned television wine guide (credits include Saturday Kitchen and Richard & Judy’s Wine Club). Robert McIntosh of the Wine Conversation (and current member of the Temperance Society) describes him as: ‘…one of the most genuinely entertaining and funny people in the wine trade…’ I could not agree more. He is also an unlikely sex symbol judging by the legions of ladies keen to make his acquaintance.
After high-fiving much of the audience (which sounds annoying, but he somehow pulled it off) he described Rioja’s vinous capital Logroño as ‘a never ending tunnel of taste’. Thick-skinned grape Graciano was ‘like Spiderman’s costume’. When admitting a regular thirst for pink wine, he claimed to be ‘an honorary member of the sisterhood’ before showing the rainbow lining of his sports jacket. He commented that Producer Dinastia Vivanco, showing a ‘light and dazzling Viura/Malvasia’, sounded like a ‘sports car’. Campo Viejo’s rather basic Crianza was ‘Heat Magazine, not Dickens’, although there was room in his life for Heat. Feeling particularly vociferous about one wine, he stood on a chair, shouting ‘health and safety be damned!’ Finally, Vina Real’s Gran Reserva was filled with so many subtle flavours that were hard to pin down, ‘like an eel’.
Should the event reoccur, I hope the Rioja sponsored festival migrates to a larger venue. Constrained to a rather unambitious tarmac square facing the old Truman Brewery, queues snaked all the way to the high street. I tasted an off-topic, tangy Andalusian gazpacho and gnawed salty lamb chops followed by octopodes in alioli.