For the last 18 months I have been organising wine tasting evenings at the splendid Theatre of Wine (http://theatreofwine.com/) in Tufnell Park for members of the Camden Chamber Orchestra Wine Society (which is a somewhat grandiose, and totally unofficial, title for members of the orchestra who like to drink a spot of wine).
Over the last 18 months we have made a journey around the wine making world: firstly tasting wines from New Zealand and Australia, secondly tasting wines from the Americas and last November tasting wines from the lesser trodden paths of Europe. Last Friday evening we completed our journey, by taking a tour through the heavyweight regions of Europe that purport to have perfected “the classics”; predominantly Italy, Spain and, of course, France. The tasting was led superbly by Sam, who was ably assisted by Cammy.
Rather than taking you through every wine that we tasted (10 in total), I will run through some of my highlights. However, I must say that the overall quality of wines on show was exceedingly high and therefore picking a number of “favourites” was hard.
I greatly enjoyed a sweet style Spätlese (lit: late picked) Riesling from Donnhoff Felsenbery, Nahe, 2011. However, this was totally eclipsed by a wine that I hadn’t expected at all:
Yves Cuilleron Vertige 2010, Condrieu, Rhone, France (100% Viognier, £62/bottle). Naturally, the price-tag does indicate that it should be a great wine, however I must be honest I wasn’t expecting so much from a Viognier. The wine was light and had a pleasant, but subtle amount of oak. However, I was blown away by the clarity of this wine and the length of its finish. It simply kept on going and going. The taste was subtle with a somewhat grassy or herbaceous nose. This was a delightful wine, partly because it was so well balanced. I would be very interested to see what this wine would be like in 10 years’ time.
Again, in the red wine category I was taken a little by surprise. We were served a 2002 5th growth Pauillac (£42), which I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed by. We also had a 2001 Rioja Reserva, which was everything that a good Rioja should be: powerful, rich and bags of flavour.
However, my favourite in this category was Alessandro Veglio Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, Piedmont, Italy (100% Nebbiolo, £15.50/bottle). Nebbiolo was not a grape that I was overly familiar with, however Sam did tell us that when he was in wine production in Australia, he found that Nebbiolo blew Pinot Noir’s claim to be the hardest grape to cultivate totally out of the water. I found this wine to be nicely fragrant with a pleasing nose of black fruit. The wine to taste certainly had a tannic element to it, which again suggested that this wine would be worth aging. We had it with some salami with specks of truffle in and the two together were a match made in heaven. (Note: The quality of the accompaniments served throughout was absolutely top drawer).
This was the most closely contested category as two wines were served that were both sensational. However, in a desire for relative brevity I shall review just one (the other was a gorgeous 10YO Madeira):
Orosz Gabor Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 1999, Mad Valley, Hungary (£55.50/bottle). This was my first tasting of Tokaji and I am now resolved that it will not be my last. This wine was fragrant to the extreme on the nose and reminded me of sticky toffee pudding. However on the taste what struck me was the minerality of the wine, it was so clear. It tasted of sultanas and candied orange and had a lovely pleasant finish, which was not too sweet – which can be a problem in sub-standard desert wines. This was a real treat and the whole group were pleased to have tried this lovely wine.
One of the reasons that I love doing our CCOWS tastings at Theatre of Wine is that they have a real talent for surprising you. I was not expecting any of the above wines to be on the list, but I am so glad that they were as they broadened my tasting horizons. There is room even in the classics for one to be surprised.
An excellent evening that was appreciated by all. Those clever chaps and chapesses at Theatre of Wine certainly know their stuff!