The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 132

STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON Is Noble Wine a Valid Concept? T PHOTO: DECANTER his was the title of a debate held by L'Academie Internationale du Vin (AIV) in London on June 12, that wrapped up the AIV's four-day visit to England to have their very first look at the English vineyards that are producing such good sparkling wines. The AIV, an international think tank whose current membership is around 100 from 17 countries, was founded in Switzerland in 1971 to defend the cause of wine and its derived spirits at the highest level. Its criteria for this are quality, authenticity, loyalty to origin and hygiene. It has no interests in the financial or economic aspects of wines and spirits, but if it so chooses, it may intervene with the authorities within the scope of its chosen aims. Members are elected by nomination, seconding and then by a major- ity vote within the organisation, and it is financed by mandatory annual membership subscriptions. I had the honour to become the first English member in 1973 and my fellow U.K. members include MWs Michael Broadbent, Serena Sutcliffe, Jasper Morris and John Salvi. I refer to the AIV as "the conscience of the wine trade." On arrival, a welcoming dinner was held at Boodle's, the gentleman's club in St James's Street founded by Edward Boodle in 1762. Nearby in the same street and founded only a little later are Brooks's and White's. There is a saying that "the members of Brooks's think they run the country, the members of Boodle's run the country and the members of White's own the country." Suffice it to say that Boodle's has the best food of the three and the chef had prepared a summer menu showing the finest English local produce, which included summer truffles from Hampshire. After an aperitif of Furleigh Estate's (who will make the Spurrier sparkling wine if the grapes ever ripen in the wettest June on record) 2009 Blanc de Blancs and 2009 Blanc de Noirs, wines suitable to the occasion were served, ending with Taylor's 1970 Port. The following day we set off to West Sussex, 22 / the tasting panel / july 2012 to visit Nyetimber, now owned by Dutchman Eric Heerema, with over 150 hectares under vine and an eventual production capacity of one million bottles. Nyetimber is the leading sparkling wine label in the U.K., which was confidently shown by their 2008 Rosé, 2009 Netherland, a single-vineyard Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay blend to be released later this year, and a superb 2003 Blanc de Blancs. After a marvelous summer lunch, with Nyetimber Demi-Sec accompanying the strawberries, we set off to Mike Roberts's Ridgeview, Nyetimber's friendly rival, whose 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs won the International Tophy at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards, ahead of several vintage champagnes. Here we tasted five pairs of wines, from 2009 down to a recently disgorged 1997, all with great class and elegance. The next day, in pouring rain, we visited the superb gardens of Great Dixter in Kent, before going on to an English lunch at Hush Heath Vineyards, where Richard Balfour-Lynn specialises in sparkling rosé. All three estates are now shipping to the U.S., so look out for them. Dinner that evening was at The Vintners' Hall, the guildhall that is the birthplace of the English wine trade, dating back to the 1300s. AIV members' wine were served from Champagne, Châteauneuf du Pape, the Mosel, Villany in Hungary, Tablas Creek in California, Gevrey-Chambertin and Chryseia from the Douro, ending with Graham's 1970, which everyone agreed was superior to the Taylor's. Nine AIV members spoke at the debate— Bruno Prats, Michel Bettane and Claude Bourguignon from France, Victor de la Serna from Spain, Paul Draper (Ridge) and Josh Jensen (Calera) from California, José Vouillamoz and Raymond Paccot from Switzerland and Angela Gaja from Italy—on a variety of topics illustrating the nobility (or lack of) in vineyards, vines, cellars and people. A vote was taken with 75% of the attendees supporting the motion, proving that the concept of nobility in wine is alive and well.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - JULY 2012