Monday, April 28: The first day of tasting for the Decanter World Wine Awards. The venue has been changed because the competition has outgrown the Parson’s Green photo studios, the Worx. We are now at Tobacco Dock in Wapping. I’m staying with David and Carole Goldberg in Kentish Town and to get here I took the London Overground to Shadwell. There is a threatened tube strike tonight at 9:30 pm so the Overground is the best method of transportation.
Decanter Awards judging venue
Spent the day tasting Bordeaux. The following flights: 2013 vintage Under £8; 2013 below £15; over £15 by vintage and price band and under £15 Bordeaux Supérieur by vintage and price band. After a lunch of boeuf bourguignon, under £15 red Côtes de Bordeaux by vintage and price band; 2011 St. Emilion Grand Cru (£15–30); white Entre-Deux-Mers by vintage and price band; and finally, Bordeaux Rosé by vintage and price band + 1 sparkling rosé. Seventy-two wines in all. Our panel of Hugo Rose, Jane Anson and Stephen Brook gave one gold medal and five silvers. The panels all have tablets to input their tasting notes and scores, which makes life a little more difficult as there’s a learning curve involved.
Sarah Kemp briefing the judges
After the tasting I walked to the Captain Kidd pub for a pint of beer and then with Hugo Rose to Brick Lane for an Indian meal. As we walked along the road we were accosted by greeters inveigling us to enter their restaurant. Got back to Kentish Town by 11 pm.
Tuesday, April 29: Up at 7 am to make sure I could get to Tobacco Dock in time as the strike by the tube workers started last night at 9:30. The Overground was packed and sweaty but got in in good time. Today I’m tasting Australian wines. Ten Cabernet Sauvignons, 13 Merlots, 11 Rieslings, 7 Shiraz. Then lunch- salmon and cheese (apparently the judges consume 25 kilos of cheese a day!). In the afternoon session, 11 Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 Cabernet blends, 8 Sauvignon Blanc and 11 Chardonnay.
Jim Budd in one of his more subdued shirts
The view from Jim Budd’s flat
My friend Jim Budd, a Loire specialist given to wearing outrageously loud Hawaiian shirts, invited me dinner with Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor (who is actually a doctor, a pediatrician). Jim and his wife Carole live in Forest Hill – a penthouse apartment at the top of the hill affording a commanding view of the City of London. Jim prepared a delicious meal, starting with cerviche of salmon and smoked haddock with some salad leaves followed by beef daube which we consumed with gusto, accompanied by a raft of Loire wines:
- Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2012
- Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Vouvray 2012
- Château Petit-Thouars Chenin 2013
- Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papi Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 1995
- Domaine Ogereau 2007 Clos le Grand Beaupréau Savennières 2007
- Domaine de Reuilly Cuvée de la Comtesse Reuilly 2006
- Claude and Laurent Champault La Pertétuelle Sancerre 1996-2008 (made from a solera system that they started in 1996!)
- Bertrand Minchin Menetou-Salon 1998
- Domaine des Champs Fleuris Cuvée Sarah Coteaux du Saumur 2007
Needless to say, I slept very well that night on Jim’s couch.
Wednesday, April 30: Jim, Chris and I made our way back to Tobacco Dock. Today our panel of Janet Dorozynski, Barb Philip, Rhys Pender and I begin tasting Canadian wines. First flight, 8 sparkling wines, followed by 10 Ontario Pinot Noir, 11 BC Cabernet blends, 12 Pinot Gris/Grigio/Pinot Blanc (not good!) and 12 Merlot. Lunch: paella and salad with cheeses. After lunch we tasted 9 Syrah, 11 Aromatic whites and 14 Vidal Icewines. Then down to the Captain Kidd for a pint of Samuel Smith bitter. The pub backs onto the Thames. Made my way home on the last night of the tube strike.
Team Canada: Janet, Barb, Rhys and Tony
Thursday, May 1: Rain today. In Henry’s Bar at Tobacco Dock I interviewed Stephen Spurrier and Decanter‘s publisher, Sarah Kemp, for an article about the Awards for County Grapevine magazine. This morning our panel tasted 14 Okanagan Valley Chardonnay; 9 Okanagan Pinot Noir; 15 Merlot/Cab blends; 13 Ontario/BC off-dry Rieslings. Lunch – pork loin and mashed potatoes and cheeses. In the afternoon 11 Ontario/BC Cabernet Franc; 8 BC Syrah; 11 Okanagan dry whites; 11 Ontario/BC Riesling and Gewurztraminer Icewines.
Stephen Spurrier judging
In the evening, to dinner at Stephen Brook’s flat in Maida Vale with my fellow judge Michael Apstein from Boston. His partner, Maria, prepared a delicious chicken dish, followed by cheeses and a chocolate torte. Stephen brought out the following wines: Maximin Grühäuser Atsberg Riesling Spätlese 1995, Nikolaihof Smaragd Grüner Veltliner 1990, Jamet Côte Rôtie 1985, Flaiveley Clos de la Maréchale 1995 and a final bottle of English sparkling wine which Michael had picked up from the winery in the South Downs that day, Sugrue Pierre. Much amused by the host’s kittens Molly and Angelo (named for Angelo Gaja), who dashed around the flat, play fighting.
Friday, May 2: The last day of judging. 11 Niagara Chardonnay, 7 Sauvignon Blanc, 10 Pinot Noir 2012, 13 Ontario red blends. Lunch: lamb with crunchy potatoes, chicken pesto penne and onion tart and, of coure, cheeses. After lunch, 10 single varietal reds, 11 BC red blends and 8 Niagara red Icewine. Then we had to select our regional trophies from the gold medal wines we had awarded.
In the evening I took my hosts, David and Carole, to dinner at Sardo, a Sardinian restaurant in Grafton Lane. I ordered a bottle of La Pariglia Vermentino di Sardegna 2013 for malloreddus alla campidanese, a traditional Sardinian pasta (made with durum wheat) served with a sauce of fresh tomatoes and aromatic sausage, followed by sea bass baked in salt. Great meal.
Saturday, May 3: A beautiful spring day in London. David dropped me at Paddington Station, where I caught the express train to Heathrow for my flight back to Toronto. Watched The Wolf of Wall Street and then wrote up my Regional Chair’s report on the Decanter judging. Deborah was away on her book club weekend in Muskoka with the girls but Pinot gave me a great welcome.