Saturday, 20 November 2010
Laithwaites Grand Tasting
The message simply read 'Help'
When I found him sometime later, dribbling to himself in a back corridor at Vinopolis it transpired that he had gone rogue and ended up cornered by a German lady who was alledgedly making him smell mushrooms before offering any of her Pinot Noir. The Shock and Awe approach to the Laithwaites tasting had been decided upon some time before, but it was clear now that TOD would need some guidance and a little more nerve if he was going to make it through.
Some other spirit knew this too, because, excellently, on our way back from the corridor we got lost and ended up in a pub. We did this I'm pretty sure without leaving the building. Sensing the hand of God at play I bought a couple of ales and we sat down to assess the situation.
Some time ago we had procured tickets to Laithwaites first 'Grand Tasting' session in the cavernous Vinopolis at London Bridge. The show promised 200 wines from across the globe served by their enthusiastic producers, lectures and tutored tastings from industry experts, friendly and knowledgeable staff on hand to offer advice and 10% off any wine bought on the day. We were clearly going to be hopelessly out of our depth...
On re-entering the arena TOD immediately latched on to two young ladies in Laithwaites shirts who were serving Le Chai au Quai with a big plate of cheese. They didn't seem to know much about Bordeaux, but were contented to listen whilst he told them all about how much he loved cheese. The wines were fairly nondescript apart from the top-of-the-line Pauillac, which had a nice attack.
I left him to go remonstrate with the German lady from earlier. She was still trying to get people to smell mushrooms and Liquorice Allsorts, but having been briefed on this I flatly refused. Instead I ate some of the Liquorice Allsorts and had a glass of Chilean Pinot Noir, which was, interestingly, mushroomy. We then made our way back to the main hall via a man who who had some Whisky to get us in the fighting spirit.
Downstairs we set about some more serious drinking.
The producers stalls were mostly set out by country, to aide the nationalist set. An Aussie gave me some fizzy Shiraz which the winemaker had, rather unimaginatively I thought, made taste exactly as you would expect, i.e. of Vimto.
Onwards to a pleasant Spier Pinotage 2008, nice but lacking a little varietal distinction. I chose not to believe the man’s optimistic declaration that ‘This is probably the finest red you will taste today’ but it seems others were more easily gulled as this was voted the crowd’s favourite wine of the day.
A brace of modern, zippy Rieslings from Von Buhl were good enough, but didn't really excite, so I moved to the next stall with the intention of practising my inimitable Spanish on a woman from Carinena. 'Though this was scuppered when she inexplicably took against me when I asked if her wine contained any.
Meeting up with TOD again we spotted an opening at the sole Argentinian stand, and an opportunity for one of his famously prolix Proustian eulogies on the joy of Malbec.
Unfortunately before he could really hit his stride the producer happened to mention Chilean wine... "Bastards the lot of them!" exclaimed TOD loudly as the atmosphere around the table darkened. The man serving the wine looked frightened, but another, standing beside us made the mistake of pressing TOD further on the finer points of his assertion. He muttered something about the Chilean being an unpredictable sort before declaring them "Untrustworthy in matters of business and affairs of the heart." This did the job and, as people started to edge away, I kept a close eye on the Chileans at the stall next door in case the scene turned ugly.
Up until this point the highlights had been some cracking NZ Pinot Noirs, especially the Forrest Wines Stonewall 2008 which matched a cracking savoury nose, to a smooth deep and long fruit palate. But the best was saved 'til the very end.
The final NZ stall we visited was that of Seifried Estate, whose ice wine Riesling was a revelation. Full and honeyed in the mouth, with bags of clean lime acidity on the finish.
We left with the firm intention of taking advantage of the 10% off deal at the shop, but queues were prohibitive. Instead we stole a couple of tasting glasses and made our merry way.