Monday, June 19, 2006

Wine with Stars In It

Sat 17 June 2006

Saturday night was the date of the Yorkshire Wine and Whisky Fair, hosted by Oddbins at the Victoria Hall in Saltaire. We'd bought our tickets (£15 each) well in advance and also managed to snaffle tickets to the Champagne masterclass (only 30 available, at £7.50 each).

The event kicked off at 5pm, but as the masterclass was at 6:30 we were anxious not to spoil our palate, and arrived just in time for a quick reccy before joining the other Champagne tasters.

The hour we spent in the masterclass was definitely the highlight of the evening (weekend, week, month, year and quite possibly even decade) for me. We tasted four champagnes, and had written notes on each of the wines along plenty of water and note paper.

We started with the 1999 Moet & Chandon. Having tried a Moet & Chandon non vintage rose at the tail end of last year I was interested to try one of the more premium wines, as I'd been pretty disappointed by the rose. The vintage, however, was a really lovely wine - incredibly pale with lots of yeast on the nose. It proved to be a really interesting contrast to the next wine, which was the Veuve Clicquot 1999.

The VC had a lot more pinot noir in its mix and has a lot more citrus on the nose. It's a much more complicated wine and would definitely pair brilliantly with food (oily fish was suggested by our guide, and the idea of a simple puff pastry tart with fresh, fat sardines and feta cheese sprang to mind). The VC is a lot more acidic than the very lean M&C - I personally preferred the M&C, which may be partially because I tend to drink champagne without food, but at the same time, if I had to plough my way through a load of smoked salmon I wouldn't say no to the Veuve, either!

We then moved on to the 1998 Dom Perignon. The idea here was to compare and contrast it with the M&C vintage, to see if we could see a house style. The nose on this wine was very distinctive - an almost burnt, buttered toast smell, which at first, I wasn't a huge fan of. The wine did taste lovely (not hugely descriptive, I know) and it's a wine which is a lot smoother and more refined than the vintage. I didn't think this had quite as much or as fine a mousse in the mouth as the straight vintage.

Our final wine was some Krug. Krug has pretty much been my list of wines to try for about 10 years (and the Clos de Mesnil is still there), so I was pretty excited to get to try it and I'm not going to make any apologies for a decade's worth of anticipation probably seriously tainting my objectivity when tasting it.

This had a similar nose to the Dom, though laden with (I think, I couldn't quite put my finger on it) quite a bit of citrus. I'm tempted to say it smelt like lemon curd, but I'm not entirely sure that's accurate. The wine had a very fine mousse in the mouth, and was a lovely tart, lemony wine, with a really persistent palate - excellent length. I'd actually managed to save some Dom to compare and contrast with the Krug and of the two, the Krug definitely won.

However, since I'm not in a position to be splashing out £100 on a bottle of champagne every time I fancy a fizzy drink I have to say that the star of the tasting was the cheapest wine, the Moet & Chandon vintage. At £36 a bottle I'm not going to be indulging after a hard day at work but for celebrations, that is where my money is.

In the hour of the class we drank very generous portions of the four wines and learnt a lot about champagne history and production. When Dom Perignon first made champagne it was called 'wine with stars in it' - and it's quite a shame it didn't stick!

After the class we moved on to the other wines on offer. There was a huge array and we managed to exercise an incredible degree of moderation, focussing pretty heavily on the other bubblies on offer. The Moet & Chandon table gave us the opportunity to revisit the M&C NV, rose and vintage wines (still not a fan of the rose, and the non vintage seemed to have a bit of a harsh finish, so the vintage won on nose, bubbles, taste and length). M&C also produce a wine called Green Point, which is made in Victoria, Australia and retails around £13. The difference between this and the more expensive wines is really noticeable, and I think that if you are looking for a reasonably priced antipodean bubbly you can do a lot better for about the same money (Pelorus vintage, from New Zealand, for a start).

We also tried some Taittinger NV and vintage - we thought the vintage better than the NV but still not a patch on the M&C vintage, at around the same price.

Our sparkling selection finished off with the Canard Duchene NV, the cheapest of the French wines at about £22. We really enjoyed this wine and have marked it down as one to seek out when the extra £10-15 for the M&C vintage can't be found (or if you are going to have to share).

On to some still wines - all whites (it was quite hot and stuffy in the hall so not quite red wine drinking weather).

We'd enjoyed a gruner veltliner a while back so we took the opportunity to try the Salomon Veltliner from Austria, which retails at about half the price of the other, although it would still work well with food and had good length.

We also fitted in a quite sauvignon blanc comparison - the Villa Maria Private Bin and Clifford Bay sav blancs from New Zealand (the cheaper Private Bin the more popular option here) and the Katnook Estate Founder's Block and Estate sav blancs from the Coonawarra in South Australia. We both preferred both the Australian wines over both the New Zealand wines, with the Estate (£12 a bottle) coming out on top overall.

That feels like a really quick roundup of an incredibly interesting evening. We could have easily stayed on and drunk a lot more wine (and probably remembered a whole lot less!), but when you've finally managed to try Krug you don't really want to sully the memory!

The Yorkshire Wine & Whisky Fair was organised by Oddbins in Shipley, who can be contacted on 01274 596391 and found on Otley Road, Baildon.
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Blogger Damian @ FinishMySong said...

Goddam... everything good seems to come along all in one go! It's like buses or something.

The Bradford Mela was on last weekend aswell in Peel Park but I also missed that due to being out of town.

Nevermind - good article anyway, mate.

3:09 pm  

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