Having already attended a couple of Decanter events I have learnt a few key tactics that mean you will survive the day. First of all don’t wear heavy clothing or things that can’t be removed easily – not because after a few too many glasses where you have forgotten to spit you may end up doing a strip tease – but because it gets so hot in the rooms at the Landmark Hotel. It is a lovely venue, but with all those bodies it heats up pretty quickly. Next, have a plan of what you want to taste. At my first Decanter event last year I thought I would try to try everything and ended up a little bit tipsy and had to face the long train journey home with a hangover! So this year I decided that I would focus on sparkling wines, mainly because my WSET sparkling exam is in a few weeks, and also because, well, because it’s sparkling wine.
The lovely people at Decanter always produce a guide book for the event listing all the producers and their wines so I spent ten minutes flicking through and highlighting all the stands that had sparkling wine on offer. And how well do you think this plan went? The first three wines I tasted were Gewürztraminer… not sparkling, but it is my favourite so it had to be done. From there I moved on to Viticultori Casali’s stand and several Lambrusco’s. They ranged from big and fruity to light, refreshing and delicate. Giovanni, their export director, talked to me of the trouble they have trying to promote Lambrusco in this country thanks to the awful £1.99 bottles of white and rosé ‘Lambrusco’ sold in UK supermarkets and favoured by teenagers who drink it down the park at the weekend. It really is a shame as these were lovely wines, some suitable to have with food, others the perfect aperitif. West Country wine merchants – if you are reading this, please stock up.
My other strategy for the day was to break it up by attending a couple of the tutored tastings. The first one I attended was Italy’s great whites: excellence & nobility ‘in bianco.’ The event was hosted by Vini Italiani and the speaker was the ever brilliant Charles Metcalfe. As we walked into the room for the tasting we were hit by the pungent aromas of the Italian cheeses we would be tasting alongside the wines.
Col Fondo Zanotto NV with Parmigiano Reggiano
Franciacorta Brut Casa delle Colonne Millesimato 2005 with Gorgonzola Dolce
Derthona Terralba 2010 with Juniper Pecorino
Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2009 with Fontina
Klin 2008 with San Pietro with Beeswax
Vinujancu I Vigneri 2010 with Aged Pecorino
Some of the pairings were very nice, especially the Klin with the San Pietro with Beeswax – which I will be hunting down when we go to Italy next month. Some were more difficult to appreciate such as the Col Fondo Zanotto with the Pamigiano Reggiano – here the cheese was too much for this wonderfully delicate and natural wine.
The second session I did was again hosted by Vini Italiani and the speaker was Jane Parkinson from the Wine Gang. This tasting was all about undiscovered reds. The wines were matched with a variety of charcuterie provided by Levoni.
Etna Rosso 2010 with Culatta
Cannonau Sartiglia 2009 with Salame Corallina
Rosso Conero 2006 with Smoked Filone (delicious smoked pork that went very well with this wine)
Rosso del Conte 2006 with Cold Arista Arrosto (the herbs in the meat complemented the herby flavours in the wine)
Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007 with Carne Salada (not my cup of tea but appreciated by everyone else)
Villa Gemma 2005 with Mortadella Gold Medal (a very good match as the high acidity of the wine cut through the fat of the meat)
The sessions were very well planned, interesting and informative and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of downstairs. They also provided the opportunity for me to try wines from grapes and regions that I have not yet experienced.
As the event was spread over two rooms I spent a few hours in the second room, again with the intention of trying some sparkling wines but got distracted by a few recommendations that were made as I went around. My thanks to Alex from @TippletipsUK for recommending the Primosic Ribolla Gialla TY 2011 – my first experience of this grape; it was aromatic, floral, refreshing with good levels of acidity.
This was a very enjoyable event, made even better with a little bit of planning (and no hangover on the way home). And I also got to try a sparkling Gewürztraminer – two birds with one stone as they say!