The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2013

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Page 22 of 152

STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON FIZZ Brings Sparkling Wine to the London Trade PHOTO: DECANTER F IZZ – The Sparkling Wine Show is the name of a new type of wine trade tasting, the idea of Ben Campbell-Johnston, who was for many years with the Symington Group (Cockburn, Dow, Graham, Warre, etc.), but left to create wine events. His first was BFWT – The Big Fortified Wine Tasting, which concentrated on fortified wines from across the world. At national tastings from Spain, Portugal, South Africa or Australia, fortified wines are there, but I seldom get around to them; but here they all are together and that is all there is to taste. The BFWT is now in its fifth year and is a major date in the wine trade diary. FIZZ is the first time that a tasting has been created specifically for the sparkling wine category. Here were wines from 17 countries, 80 different appellations or regions and over 150 separate producers around the world. The U.K. sparkling wine category has shown 11% value and 8% volume growth compared to last year, at a time when consumption of wine in this country is flat, and the range is huge, from inexpensive to very expensive, but every bottle carrying an element of celebration, even surprise. I limited my tasting to just a few countries, starting with England, where nine producers were present. The best, as usual for me, was Ridgeview from Sussex in the southeast, whose cuvees—Bloomsbury, Cavendish, Fitzrovia and Grosvenor—are named after London squares and whose top Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Merret (winner of the International Trophy for Sparkling Wine over £10 at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards) is named after George Merret, who is credited with inventing bottle-fermented wine in the mid 1660s, a century before the more famous Dom Pérignon. Catching up fast is Gusborne Estate, with 40 hectares in Kent and Sussex, very big for U.K. sparkling wine producers, whose Blanc de Blancs has pushed out vintage Pol Roger (Winston Churchill's favourite champagne, made at "the world's most drinkable address") for state dinners at Buckingham Palace. The other seven producers were new to me and not yet of such quality. One of the givens for classic bottle-fermented sparkling wine as opposed to the tank-fermented Charmat method is a relatively cool climate, and here Tasmania comes into its own. Louis Roederer's Jean-Claude Rouzaud abandoned a ten year trial on this island off South Australia citing "too cold" as the reason. (His son Frédéric has declined to plant in England, citing "too windy," and it is true that we have had to plant over 1,000 trees on our ten-hectare vineyard in south Dorset for windbreaks). Nonetheless, Andrew Pirie, who created the sparkling brand Pirie on his Pipers Brook vineyard in the 1990s, has persisted and his new cuvées Apogee Deluxe Vintage Brut 2011 (40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier) and Apogee Deluxe Vintage Rose 2011 (90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay) are quite superb. Not far behind is the Pipers River range from Jansz. Two relatively cool climates on opposite sides of the world are Carneros in California and the Black Sea in Russia. In the former, the Taittinger-Kobrand Domaine Carneros showed a very champagne-style Brut 2009 and an elegantly mature Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006. But the pleasant surprise of the day were the AbrauDurso wines, founded by Emperor Alexander II in 1870 using French winemaking techniques to produce "champagne" for the Imperial Court and "Soviet champagne" after 1917. Since 2006 both the vineyards and the vast cellars, which I visited earlier this year, have benefitted from massive investment, and the Cuvée Alexander II Brut 2009 and especially the Brut Rose 2009 from 100% Pinot Noir were wonderfully attractive "celebration wines." The Franciacorta region of Italy where this country's finest bottle-fermented wines are produced, held a big tasting recently, so I ignored their tables, passed briefly to Brazil to taste the excellent Amadeu Brut Champenoise 2011 from Cave Geisse, stopped by Chile for a charming Cono Sur Brut Rosé NV from the cool Bio-Bio region, enjoyed the very stylish Crémant de Bourgognes from Louis Bouillot/Boisset Vins, before ending up in Spain. If you think that the sparkling cavas from the north-east of the country are just branded and boring, three producers will make you think again: Raventós I Blanc, the precursors of cava and now producing wines only from their own vineyards, showed a pure and lifted de Nit Rosé 2011 and an incredibly elegant Reserva de la Finca Blanc de Blancs 2009; Gramona offered three 2008s, a creamy Reserva Brut, a still rather austere Gran Reserva Brut Nature and an ethereally pale Argent Rosé Brut Nature, all of great class; finally, the Juve y Camps range from high altitude vineyards in Penedès included a pale straw-coloured 90% Pinot Noir/10% Syrah Reserva 2011, a creamy and biscuity Blanc de Blancs Reserva 2009 and a deep-flavoured Gran Juve Gran Reserva 2008. Less expensive than the average champagne, these wines are also superb with food. 22  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2013 TP1213_001-33.indd 22 11/22/13 8:38 PM

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