It seems to be inevitable that Vinexpo coincides with a heatwave and this year it was no exception. Sweltering in a 39C heatwave, it was lucky that the aircon didn’t fail – as it did once!
My brief as is my wont these days, is to look for the unusual and maybe off-the -wall producers, particularly from those countries not exactly noted for their wines.
What transpired, with one notable exception, was how much over the last few years, the wines of some of these out of the way places have improved. Take Uruguay, for example. For years the wines from Uruguay have been the poor relations to the wines of Chile and Argentina, with even Brazil coming through as a late developer, but Uruguay has never struck me as somewhere terribly exciting. However, here I tasted wines from a traditional producer, a modern producer and a producer somewhere between the two with good effect. The traditional Carrau wines, one of the oldest producers in Uruguay were producing really good wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and of course Tannat – Uruguay’s iconic grape varietal, whilst the modernist Bouza Winery displayed excellent wines from Albariño, Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot, as well as the ubiquitous Tannat. Pisano, between the two, are the only Uruguayan producer of Torrontes wine, together with a Pinot Noir and a selection of Tannats including a Tannat, Syrah and Viognier blend. These will all be written up as new entries for the next edition of Wine behind the label, and of course, our club members will be the first to see them before they are incorporated into the guide.
Another impressive round of tastings were the wines from New York State, which I had hitherto regarded with lukewarm interest. But here I think that with global warming, their production of vinifera has improved enormously over the past few years, with Rieslings in particular being especially suited to the new climatic conditions. Red Newt Cellars, Konstantin Frank, Lamoreaux Landing, Palmer Vineyards, Keuka Spring and Brotherhood Winery all showing sufficient quality to be included as Other Wines of Note or even full entries. Watch this space.
Even wines from Ukraine – Shabo in particular are going to be worth a mention although their pricing seems to be all over the place, but the biggest disappointment were the wines from Georgia that I tasted, thin, astringent, with some of them being particularly unpleasant. Maybe burying them in a clay amphora gives them an edge which I can’t get my head round.
New, for me, was the Clarendelle range of wines, put out by Domaines Clarence Dillon, the owners of Ch. Haut-Brion. THis is a generic range of red, white and rosé wines from Bordeaux, now supplemented by a Clarendelle St. Émilion and a Médoc as well as a Clarendelle Amber from Monbazillac. Generic, good quality, but not cheap, but with the Haut-Brion inspiration behind it, their marketing department are not finding it difficult to sell.
Old for me, was a reconnection with the wines from Les Chemins de Bassac, from the Hérault, wines that I imported over 25 years ago when I owned The Wine Treasury and who were one of the pioneering organic wine producers before it became fashionable. They have been unwavering in their commitment over all these years and with modern techniques are now producing delicate, tasty wines.
No Vinexpo is complete without the round of invitations to tastings and dinners and it would be too long to describe all of them here. Suffice to say, that the Opening Dinner, held at Ch. Carbonnieux, was spectacular, with some great food produced for some 400 people by chef Alain Detournier including this somewhat phallic starter!