Naked Wines Tour 2012 – Edinburgh
The Naked Wines tasting tour rolled into Edinburgh on Friday 29th June after what must have been an exhausting whistle-stop taking in Norwich, Cambridge, London and Cardiff amongst others. Setting up in the Festival Hub on Castle Hill at the top of the stunning Royal Mile were a collection of wonderful winemakers ready to show over 140 wines and my friend Victoria and I were ready to get as far through them as we could!
Where to begin is always a difficult one. There were people I wanted to meet, some wines I wanted to taste more than others. Should I start at 1 and see how far I could get, go to the quietest table, start with fizz and work through to Port? Then as I entered the room I saw Bill Small standing with no one near him. Decision made. I love the Small & Small wines, as regular visitors to this blog will know. I think the 2010 Sylvia’s Reserve is the best Sauvignon Blanc I’d ever tried and also Bill follows this blog on my Facebook page. So over we went to the New Zealand table.
Introducing myself we started on the 2011 Riesling which had a delightful acidity with loads of lemon fruit and a flinty dryness. This is a wine that Bill makes because he loves Riesling and which will happily age for 10 years he says. Riesling shows such different characteristics over its life cycle that I’d love to lay a bottle down and come back in 10 years and tell you if it is showing the honeyed diesel characteristics that you’d expect. Next up was Theodore’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011. This is literally Sylvia’s sibling and like most siblings is totally different. A very different style from the traditional Marlborough sauvignon it is grown on the cooler south facing slopes and has a real floral quality to it, with violets and blackcurrants alongside the citrus. I found it quite complex and intriguing, I think it definitely split opinion but I thought it was fantastic. We would return for the Pinot Noir 2011 later as it was still white o’clock.
This was very much a night to meet the winemakers and what a fantastic opportunity it was. Tasting the new Farmers Story wines with Jock Harvey who is making them down in McLaren Vale. Jock is a massive Australian who towered over my 6’ 2” and as the name suggests hails from a family of 19th Century Scottish migrants. He went into detail about the farmers with small quantities of vines who are producing the grapes for these new wines which are exclusive to Naked, speaking about the quality of the grapes and with a passion for his craft. Carlos Rodriguez who I’m an Archangel for showed his Albamisa Albarino 2011, a beautiful full bodied wine which has a herby citrus acidity to it. Speaking to us of matching it to oysters or smoked salmon which I will do soon. But that night I wanted to try it with Morangie Brie which Cheese Scotland had on their stand, having had this from them before I thought it would be a perfect match. And it was, you should give it a go!
A real highlight was meeting Carmen Stevens, what a delightful lady with a wonderful talent, head winemaker at Amani in South Africa. I tasted the 2009 Merlot from Amani, not normally my favourite grape but this was huge, full of tannin and oak to complement the plum and black fruit. Her first solo vintage, 2011 Angels Reserve Shiraz was quite simply stunning and sold £120k of pre-orders the afternoon it was released. I really can’t wait for the next vintage.
A trip back to the New Zealand table brought for me the highlights of the night, Gatecrasher Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Rod Easthope and Lay of the Land Ben Morven Farm Pinot Noir 2011 by Mike Paterson, a stunning addition to the Naked Wines stable of winemakers who are making their own wines with Naked Angel funding. The sauvignon was the result of some experimental fun, as the 2008 vintage suggests it is aged, complex, full of yeast notes having sat on the lees, oak character from barrel ageing but then with an amazing floral sauvignon note coming through on the finish. Lots of fun! The Pinot Noir had amazing intensity for such a young wine. Not the young, thin slightly green raspberry fruit that you expect with new pinot, but rich, full, elegant strawberry and raspberry fruit with a velvety mouthfeel. Made in small batches this is an example of an artist at work.
With so many wines to go through it was impossible to get round everyone and try everything. However a challenge set me at the start of the night was to find a chardonnay that Victoria liked. Finding two was genius. The classy dry complexity of 2010 Dominic Hentall Saint Veran and the fabulously fruity Blackwood Un-Wooded 2011 Chardonnay from Matt Fowles in Australia. Both showing off the peachy fruit of that grape with none of the pencil chewing oak that some winemakers feel the need to add.
I have missed out so many wines and some delightful people as the night started to get slightly hazy towards the end. In my defence I don’t believe you get the full finish of the wine when spitting out so the spittoons went unused by myself. However highlights were feeling a bit rock star like with my ‘big’ Archangel badge, chatting to Rowan about his love of bringing these wines to the public, and Jock Harvey taking a note of the blog address on his arm as there was no paper handy. I hope you checked it out Jock! I really would encourage you to get along to one of these annual events, the wine is wonderful, the chat educational and the conviviality joyful. Well done to Fran, Sam et al for organising such a great event. You deserve some time off at the end of an intense fortnight!