A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 595: Decanter World Wine Awards

Decanter World Wine Awards poster

Sunday, April 24th: Arrived in London after a sleepless night. My original seat (30C) was an arm’s length from the toilet. I asked to change and the only available aisle seat was next to an 18-month-old boy and his mother. The boy kicked me throughout the journey just as I was about to fall asleep.

Took the tube from Heathrow to Kentish Town where I’m staying with my rabbi friend David Goldberg, who officiated at both my wedding ceremonies. David and his wife Carole took me to lunch in The Crypt in St. Martin’s in the Field. Trafalgar Square has been made a pedestrian precinct now and there are many buskers vying for tourists’ hand-outs, including several levitation acts – buskers dressed up as Yoda or other characters who hang onto a pole and seem to levitate in the air. Still don’t know how they do it. For dinner David opened a bottle of Vray Croix de Gay 1982 which was lovely and still alive, except it was served with cold salmon.

Monday, April 25th: The first day of judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Our Canadian panel – Barb Philip MW, Rhys Pender MW and a Danish Master Sommelier working in London, Kathrine Larsen, and I – judged 73 wines and awarded 2 gold medals and several silvers.

Judge’s setup

Lunched on shepherd’s pie and salad. After the tasting we repaired to the Captain Kidd pub on the river for the customary pint of bitter.

The Canadian panel at the Captain Kidd: Barb Philip, Tony, Kathrine Larsen and Rhys Pender

My journey from Tobacco Dock in Wapping back to Kentish Town takes about 45 minutes and involves two trains and a five-minute walk at both ends of the journey. Picked up a bunch of flowers for Carole and a bottle of Leyda Syrah 2012 at Oddbins in the High Street, as the Goldbergs’ daughter and her baby Oscar were coming for dinner, along with Alexis, who is in from the Languedoc and staying a couple of nights here. Alexis is the daughter of the late George Martin, the Beatles’ producer. She is in London to arrange the memorial service for her father.

Tobacco Dock 1812–1989 plaque

Tuesday. April 26th: Down to Tobacco Dock for the second day of judging British Columbia wines: Over £15 Okanagan Chardonnay, Okanagan Pinot Noir, BC Cabernet Franc and Okanagan Riesling. It began to snow while we were tasting! After lunch, Over £15 Bordeaux blends, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Ontario Riesling Icewines. After which, a visit to the Captain Kidd for a pint of bitter. Picked up a bottle of Aymura Syrah 2013 from Chile’s Elqui Valley for dinner (spaghetti bolognese).

A cleansing ale after a long day of tasting

Wednesday, April 27th: This morning we judged Okanagan Chardonnay, Red Blends, Gamay & Merlot before lunch. After lunch, Okanagan Merlot, Okanagan Syrah, Vidal Icewine and Red Icewine. After a pint at the Captain Kidd, I walked over to the judges’ party that was held at the Dickens Inn in Marble Key, St. Katherine’s Way, near the Tower of London. A beautiful walk along the river. At the party they served Wiston Estate Sparkling Wine from the South Downs.

Dickens Inn, Wapping

Wiston English Sparkling Wine

Thursday, April 28th: A final day of judging the Canadian entries to the Decanter World Wine Awards: Aromatic whites, Off-Dry whites, Ontario Cabernets and BC Single Varietals by Grape. After lunch we tasted the eleven wines we had accorded gold medals to confirm that they deserved them, and then ranked them to go forward to be judged by a separate panel to see if they are worthy of a Platinum Medal or the top prize as Best In Show. Christelle Guibert, Decanter‘s Tasting Director, poured us from a magnum a Muscadet she had made at a co-operative. It was delicious.

Christelle Guibert and Muscadet

After my final visit to the Captain Kidd with my panel members I made my way back to Kentish Town and prepared to go to dinner at the apartment of my friend Stephen Brook in Maida Vale. I had brought over for him a bottle of Trius Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2013 which we drank before dinner with his other guest Ian D’Agata and his date. Stephen’s partner Maria (who cooks for a private school) prepared a delicious chicken dish, an amazing cheese tray and a flourless chocolate cake. Stephen served us blind Château Sociando Mallet 1985 and Vray Croix de Gay 2001 (which I guessed as a Pomerol having had a 1982 vintage of this very wine on Sunday night).

Tower Bridge and the Shard

Friday, April 29th: Spent the morning going over my notes from the competition. In the evening I took my hosts and my old friend Livia Prior to dinner at Texture, an Icelandic restaurant at 34 Portman Street. We started with a bottle of Gaston Selection Champagne before we sat down at the table. I ordered smoked salmon and suckling pig with a bottle of Egon Müller Kanta Riesling 2014 from the Adelaide Hills, and Livia had brought a bottle of Colin-Deléger et Fils Maranges “La Fussière” 1998. A delicious meal.

Saturday, April 30th: Up early to finish packing to take the flight back to Toronto.


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