Tuesday, 3 May 2011

International Wine Challenge, London

Last week I stayed on in London to judge wines at the IWC competition at the Barbican centre. The competition is a huge affair with many of the top MW’s, winemakers and wine writers involved.

On arrival everyone is split into groups of 5 each with a team leader and allocated two tasting tables on which flights of blind tastings are waiting. Once the first flight is finished we switch to the second table whilst the previous table is cleared down and another flight is set up and then it’s back to the first table, this carries on all day.

The flights are very varied and can be white, red, rose, sparkling, sweet or fortified from any country. The previous week the preliminary rounds had already been completed so this was the important tasting where all wines were potential medal winners!

I tasted some very impressive wines over the 3 days with South African dry white blends, northern Rhone Syrah and Australian Shiraz being very memorable. After each long day the evening Coopers Aussie ale was much welcomed!

I also managed to go to a shop tasting in Hersham where Tony and JMS were presenting Chai vs New World. All the wines were very good and the competition was very close, but I think the chai just won!

It started with 2008 sparkling rose from leading UK bubbles maker Ridgeview Estate then:

1. Laithwaite Sauvignon Blanc 2010
vs Viña Tarapacá Sauvignon Blanc 2010
2. La Part du Boucher
vs Hickinbottom Shiraz Cabernet 2009
3. Le Grand Chai Sauternes 2006
vs Westend Estate Three Bridges Boytritis 2006

Thursday was spent at Head office for a giant Midi tasting with Tony and buyers Becca and Kat in the tasting room.

In the afternoon I headed out to Abingdon to pay a visit to Will Laithwaites’ new brewery, Loose Cannon. After all the week’s wine a beer tasting was extremely enjoyable, cheers!

Will has a great set up and making some cracking ales. On entering the brewery I was overwhelmed with the aromas of the fresh hops that were being soaked for today’s brew. I tried the Abingdon Bridge bitter from yesterday’s brew which is superbly aromatic and a lovely full flavour. I left Will finishing off his brew and hitched a lift to Henley with Caleb in the keg van delivering to great little real ale pubs along the way!

After all that work we thoroughly deserved a pint and Caleb of course knew all the pubs where we could get a good pint of Loose Cannon!

Friday it was back to Bordeaux and to the Chai where Denis was waiting with a beaming smile. Nice to see the knife, the beret and the saucisson all back in the right place!


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