Vinous variety

Many trade tastings are rather orderly affairs with a bit of elbow room, an atmosphere in which you can talk to producers or suppliers and often rather good catering thrown in.  Some are in very fine settings with a lot of attention being paid to the whole environment. After all – let’s be straightforward about this – you are being wooed. IMG_0629By contrast SITT, Specialist Importers Trade Tasting, is jam packed with people, it positively hums with energy.  The Great Hall of Vinopolis is quite a big room but by early afternoon it is both packed and over-heated, but nobody seems to care.  (The picture above shows about a quarter of the space in a quiet moment. You can actually see the floor!)  The gathered buyers, journalists, restaurateurs, sommeliers and the odd blogger are having a great time tasting and networking.  It would be fascinating to compute how many ‘tasting hours’ of experience are gathered in that large hall …  And why are all these lavishly trained palates here?  The draw is the vast range of large and small importers showing their wares. … small importers, individual Burgundy domaines, large companies, tiny specialists operating in niche markets, country and regional agencies.  50 tables, around 1200 wines … from this wide-ranging offer here are some personal highlights:

Subtle sparklers

Later in the afternoon I tried some Prosecco from Mionetto (good, very commercially successful, a fine rosé made from Raboso and Lagrein), but the stars were undoubtedly some very fine Champagne:

Gosset RoséGosset Brut Excellence – super attractive brioche aromas and red berried fruit, very drinkable, very gorgeous.  A generous 20+% of reserve wine makes for quality in this anything-but-basic entry level wine

Gosset  Grand Rosé – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus 9% red wine to produce a very subtle pale pink, ‘onion skin’ is the official line.  Five years on the lees for complexity.  Sublime, fine red berried fruit, lovely texture, very good.  Gosset make some much grander wines but these two are impressively good.

Pol Roger Brut Reserve 2000 – 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, seven years on the lees in the bottle, amazingly biscuity nose, dense and taut fruit, excellent, would develop further for years.  A very good result from an indifferent vintage, with the weather in northern France unaccountably not rising to match the chronological calculations of the Western world.

Pol Roger Rosé 2002 – here made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, 13% red wine added before the second fermentation, from an exceptionally good year.  Pale salmon pink, not as yeasty as the previous wine but super fine palate of alpine strawberries and raspberries, very good.

Cantina Lenotti, Bardolino

For the Love of Wine, Italian off-piste specialists, had brought over a representative of this largish company with a modern winery near Lake Garda. There were ten or so wines, so we won’t rehearse them all here but their hallmark is a clever compromise between saleable, commercial wines and authentic local styles.  This can end in tears for the genuine wine lover but not in this case.  For example, their Colle dei Tigli (‘lime tree hill’) is a blend of Garganega and Cortese, ie Soave meets Gavi,  a pleasantly aromatic, full and refreshing (and inexpensive) glass of wine.  To my surprise I found myself also liking their very approachable Amarone classico 2006, made in a fragrant, relatively light and balanced style.  While not made for long ageing, it is still dense and berried, reasonably priced and worthwhile.

The prolific Vincent Girardin

IMG_0632Vincent Girardin
I have no idea how large large the Girardin family is but in Burgundy their 250,000 bottles spread across a remarkable 65 different wines is unusual in a region of small family concerns.  Even here I tasted 11 Burgundies and a further three Beaujolais cru from Moulin-à-Vent.  Judging by this sample, the whites on the Côte d’Or are even better than the reds.  It was fascinating to compare recent vintages – 2009 from warmer Pouilly-Fuissé is ripe and very delicious, with apricot and lemon fruit and some good acidity, immediately drinkable.  The trick in this warm and reliable year was to pick early enough to preserve the sharpness and structure.  By contrast, Meursault Les Narvaux 2008 has superb linear acidity and good depth of fruit, a difficult year in which the skilful made good, more classic wines.  Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes of the same year is a bit oakier, a bit fatter, but still needs time to develop.  From another tricky year, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Folatières 2007 is not as immediately expressive but has a wonderful saline, mineral, quality, and probably needs even longer to develop its potential.  Finally, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2006 is richer and grander still, lots of oak on the nose, then superb fruit and racy acidity, excellent, will develop for the long term.  There are too many variables here for a strict comparison – quality level, sites, years – but it is still very instructive of what the quality pyramid in Burgundy is about.

I finished the tasting with some 10 and 20 year old Cognac and Armagnac (as one does).  If you ever get depressed about the state of the UK wine sector with its obsession with bargain offers and supermarket shelves of competent but dull wines, the answer is to buy your wine through an independent wine shop. And behind the independents are the specialist importers who are bring to their task a real love of wine in all its wonderful variations.

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