The Sour Grape

Tasting Event: London Wine Fair 2019

View of the London wine Fair from the second floor

I always approach the London Wine Fair with the same unbridled enthusiasm and naive expectation that, this year, I will attend all three glorious days and make the most of the opportunity. My record to date, however, has been a day and half… a pathetic effort! This year I was determined to take it easy on day 1 and give myself decent lay-ins on days 2 and 3 to increase my chances of experiencing as much I could. Like any child in a candy store, I needed to remind myself repeatedly that it’s ok not to try every sweat in the shop!

Kopke White Port Vertical Tasting

Stunning aged white ports.

I was over the moon to spot on first entering the wine fair this year that not only did Port producer ‘Kopke’ have a presence but that they were showcasing a vertical tasting of their White Ports – The 2008 Colheita, 10 year old, 20 year old, 30 year old & 40 year old. This was such a good opportunity, that I couldn’t pass up the chance to take more detailed notes than I would be able to for the rest of the fair.

Port has always been a favourite of mine, but like most people in uk and I’m sure in the wider world too outside of Portugal, I was unaware of White Port until a few years ago when its presence in the uk market increased significantly. It’s still not a high street staple but you can find it most M&S, Waitrose and wine shops like Majestic Wines (certainly in most independent wine specialists).

Most white and tawny ports are a blend of vintages with the average age being a least that stated on the label. They’re also taste tested to insure they have the characteristics expected of wine with that average age. So a 10 year old white port may have wine much older in it but has all the characteristics of what a 10 year old white port should be. Colheita ports are from a single vintage and demonstrate vintage variation rather than ‘ageing style’.

The 2008 Colheita has a light to medium golden colour, aromas of toasted almond, dried apricots and met on the palate with hints of butterscotch. 

The 10 year old is a shade darker with medium gold colour, hints if marzipan developing on the aroma with more intense concentration on the palate. 

The 20 year old is actually a shed lighter again with light gold, similar aroma profile but everything is smoothly integrated and balanced here with a higher proportion of roasted nuts on the palate. 

The 30 year old is noticeably darker with medium-deep gold almost brown colour, with pronounced aromas if dried orange peel and apricots mixing with roasted almonds and hazel nuts, a waxy textured mouth feel and an intense finish. 

The 40 year old is a medium amber colour and a similar aroma profile to the 30 year old, but the intensity on the palate is almost overpowering and the finish of roasted nuts, vanilla pod and dried apricots/figs goes on for days.

The 30 year old is the stand out for me here, and with the lower price point better value than the 40 year old (which is incredible in its own right, just lot more expensive). I’m just a sucker for carefully oxidised wines, with white and tawny ports at the top of the list.

Kopke Rosé

A fully textured Rosé, Complex and fresh at the same time

Kopke also had a new Rosé offering made with the highly unusual grape variety ‘rufete’ and limited bottling to only 1404 bottles. Needless to say this wine has a premium price point of around £30 which is on the higher end for a rosé. That said this is stunning! I find most rosé on the thin side of the flavour wedge and so often lacking character it’s almost a hallmark of the style at this point: pale in colour, light in taste, serve cold. This wine could not be more different, with an intense red berry fruit aroma, decadent waxy/glycerol texture to the mouth feel, intense on the palate and long in the finish. Yet in spite of all that this is still a fresh wine somehow with a plenty of acidity running through its core. I wish more rosé were like this.

Domaine Nuiton Beaunoy has a wide range of red and white Burgundy’s on display with the whole range of quality levels from region through village to 1er Cru on show. Without question their village wines from Beaune, Morley-St-Denis and Pommard showed the best with my favourite being the Pommard. A special shout out needs to go to the Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru that was also stunning, but undoubtedly all the more expensive.

The Wines of Davinum

Beautiful Tuscan reds, layered textured and smooth as silk

Almost by accident I stumbled on a Tuscan producer by the name Davinum. Each of their 4 wines were exquisite and is another reason for me to despair at the wine being imported to our country when wines this good are left without distribution. We started with their rosé ‘Opal’ which has a bright clear soft pink-salmon colour, with citrus and white flower aromas and a wonderful leesy texture and distinct red berry fruit and citrus on the palate. This is the second beautiful rosé I’ve found this year and both truly unexpected. 

Next was ‘Toscanetti’ 2018, an Unoaked 100% Sangiovese but their entry red and its breath taking from the start. Deep ruby colour with sweet red cherry and soft vanilla aroma, with subtle integrated tannins and a fine grain structure. Ripe red berry fruit on the palate and a soft warming finish that beggars for more. 

We move on to the ‘Nostrum’, a super Tuscan blend aged in French oak for 16 months, of Sangiovese, Merlot, Pugnitello and Foglia Tonda. It has a deep ruby colour again with sweet red cherry, tobacco leaf and sweet spice aroma. Intense concentration of dark cherry fruit on the palate with vanilla and heavier but still fine grained tannins and structure. The finish is also more complex. 

Last up we have the ‘Solo Uno’, their top 100% Sangiovese, this time with 2 years in French oak barrels, themselves seasoned for 3 years. It has a gorgeous clear medium ruby colour that practically glows from within, with sour cherry fruit, violet flowers, tea and leather aroma. On the palate the tannins are fine and well integrated, the leather spice and cherry fruit lifted on the palate with plenty of perfume and a long juicy complex finish of sweet spice and tea. A beautiful wine, as are they all.

Granbazan – Lees Ageing Masterclass

Albariño with some serious lees ageing going on

On the white wine side I found an exciting producer from the Rias Baixas region of northern Spain, that produces a range wines all of which are 100%Albariño. What separates the wines of Granbazán is the length of the Lees ageing varies between them. Their youngest wine, ‘Etiqueta Verde’, has a pale lemon-geek colour, with white peach aroma, a clean fresh acidity and a firm concentration of fruit on the palate leading to a slight salty finish.

Next up is their middle wine, ‘Etiqueta Ambar’, which is made from only free run juice and ages on its fine lees for at least 6 months. It has a pale lemon colour with riper peach and stone fruit aromas. Still intense on the palate but more balance and harmony with the acidity, citrus, peach and leesy textural complexity. The finish is leesy yeasty edge too with stone fruit winding through.

The last of their Lees aged wines, ‘Don Ávaro D Bazán’, is aged on its fine lees for over 2 years! It has a medium lemon colour with riper stone fruit aroma still and pronounced intensity on the palate. Yeasty lees texture with stone fruit and high but balanced acidity, lovely mineral granite like vein running through. Piercing and clearly defined. A Stunning wine.

Granbazán also produce a barrel aged Albariño,Limousin, which spends 6 months ageing in French oak barrels. It has a pale lemon colour with white peach and lemon citrus and a hint of aniseed aroma. Citrus fruit and a wide citrus core front this wine before vanilla and subtle toasty notes round out the palate with a long nutty finish. Nom!

Bodegas Gazon – South American Steak Wines

The best red to go with steak that I’ve tasted in years

The last producer I want to highlight comes from Uruguay in South America. Tannat is one of my favourite red grape varieties and like Malbec and Carmenere before it, has been adopted by its own South American country. I recently enjoyed a bottle Bodegas Garzón at a steak restaurant with my brothers and I’d been hoping to try the rest of wines ever since.

Single Vinyard Pinot Noir 2017, has a pale ruby colour (with a garnet tint) with ripe red cherry and tea aromas. Ripe and juicey red berry fruit and sweet vanilla pod on the palate. Perfectly balanced acidity and long fruit forward finish that rounds out to notes of tea leaves and tobacco leaf. Seriously… wow!

Single Vineyard Petit Verdot 2017, has a deep ruby-purple colour with ripe black berry fruit and sweet spice aroma. Soft texture and fine grained tannins frame the palate of ripe black berry fruit with a dark mineral graphite core and a long warming berry and soft vanilla laced finish. Nom!

Single vineyard Tannat 2017, Has a deep ruby-purple colour with blackberry and soft vanilla pod aroma. Huge intensity on the palate but balanced. The signature tannins are present but fine grained and typically heavy, lending a wonderful texture to the body. It has a dark mineral graphite core and a mineral finish.

Marselan Reserva 2017, It has a medium ruby colour with ripe red berry fruit aroma. Grippy Tannins and concentrated red berry fruit on the palate. Very mineral. Well crafted but not quite for me.

Tannat Reserva 2017, This is the wine I tasted with my brothers. It has a deep ruby colour with a mix of red and black berry fruit aroma. A huge intensity of fruit is lifted by a bright and balanced Acidity. Dark mineral graphite core but with equal intensity of fruit to balance it out. Long black berry fruit finish laced with tobacco leaf and hints of liquorish. This is a stunning wine!!!!

The Balasto 2016 is their Icon Wine, a blend of tannat, cab franc, marselan and petite Verdot. It has a deep ruby colour with pronounced ripe sweet red and black berry fruit, sweet vanilla and cream aroma. Intense concentration of berry fruit on the palate and mineral graphite core. Huge length and finish. A real combination and summery of all their reds combined… but with everything turned up to 11. It’s a beast but a loveable beast of a wine… the power of Tannat unleashed with a price tag to match sadly.

And lastly…

Stunning premium wines from Ribera Del Duero… Importers please take note!

Before I sign off there is one more producer I’d like to give a shout out too, ‘Bodegas Alilian’. I discovered their wines in the ‘Wines Unearthed’ section of the show, where producers are looking for representation and importers. This means sadly that their wines are very hard to get hold of in the UK and I’ve been trying to do so ever since tasting them over a month ago now. 

They are a small producer in the heart of Ribera del Duero and the first Chinese wine makers to set out their stall in Spain. They have three wines, all made from ‘Tinta Del Pais’ (Tempranillo) and made from different vineyard selections, vine ages and differing length of time ageing in new french oak. They are stunning wines and I wish I had more in the way of tasting notes to share with you… alas I discovered them as I was literally leaving the show on the final day and I’d run out of time. That said I’m searching for a way to get my grubby little mitts on some and should I be successful you’ll be seeing a full write up on them soon.

That’s it for my report on this years London Wine Fair. Thank you for reading and please let me know your thoughts.

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