2010 York Wine Festival

Once again organised by Field and Fawcett, the closing big event of this year’s Food Festival was the Wine Fair. It’s a trade-style tasting, with a number of producers and distributors guiding the willing public through their offerings. Like last year, I focused on the white wines first. Unlike last year, I had a trio of very willing helpers who lent their senses of smell to the occasion and focused on the red wines, so I think we managed to do justice to the huge variety on offer.

To start as we didn’t mean to go on, we had a quick tour of the different styles of Joseph Perrier Champagne. The distinctive savouriness of older vintage champagnes is provided by the extra time the yeast spends inside the bottles, as Phil said, it tastes of umami paste. I wonder how long it will be until somebody tries to make a champagne and marmite cocktail. I much preferred the younger cuvees.

Next up was an interesting comparison of Viogner from different regions. A solid 2009 Anakena from the Rapel Valley in Chile was light and fruity and extremely drinkable was put next to a 2008 Langmeil from Australia’s Barossa Valley. The Australian one was recognisably the same grape, but the smell and taste was much more intense. A Riesling from Chile was very subtle and light, nothing like as sturdy as the German versions. One of the stars from this table was a Marsanne, 2008 La Forge Estate from the Languedoc. It wielded a huge hit of strawberry, had some vanilla hints that suggested it had seen some American Oak and had a darker colour from some European Oak. It was good, but £8 is the upper limit for what I’ll spend on a bottle of wine.

Stepping next door was another Chilean Viognier. This one was a 2009 Casa Silva Reserva from Colchagua Valley and was a similar price point to the previous one. However, it must have been grown on a different facing hill because it was hugely stronger than even the Australian one, which just goes to show that you can’t even judge a grape by the country it was grown in. Microclimate > Climate. A 2008 Californian Chardonnay was surprisingly nice, with hints of grapefruit on the nose. Turned out it hadn’t been ages in oak, so no wonder I liked it.

Next up was a sterotypical Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a good gooseberry taste but I felt its acidic finish lingered too long. That was in stark contrast to a great Pino Gris from the same vinyard, Gladstone in Wairarapa. This was not at all astringent and had a lovingly smooth, rich finish, that didn’t linger at all. However, it was also £14 a bottle, so I’ll be giving that one a miss. Unlike a 2008 Argentine Torrontes from the Tomero vinyard in Mendoza. This had a strongly floral orange nose and a taste that hurtled straight to my spicy tastebuds. Whereas a Gewurtztraminer is spicy and sweet, this Torrontes is spicy and dry and has qualified itself as my favourite from the show. It was £9 a bottle though.

Back to Europe next for a surprisingly drinkable Rose and a fun chat with this table’s master of ceremonies where we learned, amongst other things, that 2009 was an exceptionally good year for Western European wines. I still wouldn’t choose it, but a Les Cerisiers Rose, 2009 Cotes du Rhone from Boutinot had a surprisingly good body, was light and fruity like they’re supposed to be, but without the sickly aftertaste or tannin finish that seems to go hand in hand with the blends. Turns out that’s because it wasn’t a mix of finished white and red wine. Another new grape for me was a 2009 Clairette from Domaine Des Sources. This grape is mostly used in blends from the Loire to Chateau Neuf de Pape. It was relatively cheap and I found it would have been a good session drink, fruity without being astringent, didn’t seem to hit any of the stereotypes I’ve met. The final wine I tried from here was a winemakers selection blend, marketed under the Novas brand which mixed three chilean wines together, presumably because that’s what they had to hand. Its nose hit a number of tropical fruity notes, from pinapples to peaches and grapes. It was too long in European oak for my taste though, with a strong taste that was quick to fade away.

A latin theme greeted us next with a selection from Italy and the Martinez Lacuesta vinyard in Spain. A white Rioja was unusual but a bit bland, my instincts said it was good but I have no idea why. A red Rioja Crianza was spicy, with hints of sweet vanilla and, apparently, mushrooms.

Next up was a 2008 Riesling from Barossa, Australia. Its nose of red apples was so strong I had to double check that it wasn’t cider, a very good wine that was different again from the other Reislings, very drinkable. Finally, I found a Gewurztraminer. This one was a 2009 from Martinborough, New Zealand and was presented in the usual exaggerated Alsace flute bottles. It’s broadly similar to an Alsace one but had more residual sugar and a shorter finish. I was reminded why it’s my favourite small doses grape, but at £30 a bottle it’s priced itself so far out of my market it’s not even funny.

At this point through the afternoon, my notes have become terse and illegible. Can’t imagine why. I’ve also briefly moved onto the reds that the others have already sampled for me, so I can just dash round and hit the highlights

One of their favourite reds was a 2009 Shiraz from Domaine de Montval, France, helpfully reduced to £6 which is approaching affordability. I found this to be light with just enough tannin to balance the strong blackcurrants. A 2006 Esprit Spinifex from Barossa, Australia was rich but sweet and desirable. A motive that was reflected by the professionals who priced it accordingly.

The last red was a 2009 Shiraz from Domaine les Bruyeres which had many positive critical reviews. We disagreed and thought it tasted of changing rooms with hints of wet socks on the nose.

Compass Box were showing a selection of their whiskys and their wines, but disappointingly didn’t have any of their orange infusion left after last week.

I finished the day with a crafty Mortlach whilst the others had their backs turned.

So, a few Wine Facts for the day:

  • We prefered a Syrah from a hot climate rather than a cold climate
  • I really liked that 2008 Argentine Torrontes for being spicy and dry
  • The French Clairette was a very good vin de pays and I’ll keep an eye out for that when I’m next over there