Situated in Newcastle upon Tyne close to Central Station and near to the River Tyne is the historic Stephenson Works, the world’s first purpose built locomotive works, famous for the construction of such iconic locomotives as ‘Locomotion’ and ‘The Rocket’.
Derelict for many years until present custodians, The Robert Stephenson Trust along with friends of the Trust, have restored the building to something of its former glory, it is now available for hire as an event space.
On the first Friday and Saturday of each month ‘The Boiler Shop Steamer‘ rolls into town. Brainchild of Riley’s Fish Shack and Wylam Brewery, the event takes over the works and has become a popular place to be seen, welcoming thousands through its doors each month. Fellow ‘Steamers‘ can sample the many different types of food on offer, washed down with either a glass of wine, local ale or cocktail, whilst an impressive line up of live musical acts keeps everyone fully entertained, such as DJ FLint & Steel, Love & Lies, Alex Butler and Symphonic Pictures! who played at this month’s event.
We were fortunate enough to lend a hand on the wine bar last weekend and hope to do so again in the future, so watch this space …
We arrived to a hot, sticky London evening in search of our hotel in Pimlico, which we found just in time as we discovered that one of our tyres was punctured by a large screw and was quickly going flat.
We moved into our pink, basement, shoebox sized room that resembled the inside of an oven. After failed attempts to manage the temperature and create some kind of airflow in the room, we resigned ourselves to the fact we would just have to swelter. So we put our minds to planning our stay in London.
We have forgotten to mention that we acquired three vines in Devon, our ‘Pinot Passengers’, which would be coming home with us to hopefully grow in our porch, aka the cats toilet (incidentally he does use a litter tray and is very proper about his toilet habits). We thought it fitting that he should have a few Pinot Noir grapes dangling above his head and hopefully he will agree. Before retiring to bed, Kel popped out to the car to water our precious commodity, which we hoped wouldn’t be mistaken for a more “exotic” type of plant. The following day, after sorting the flat tyre out, we escaped any further baking in our room by spending a few hours relaxing in the sun in Hyde Park, along with most other people in London who had the same idea.
The awards dinner was held at Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane and is the result of a lengthy process of identifying those wines from the thousands judged from around the world that are considered to be the best. The Awards Dinner is also a platform for celebrating and recognising businesses as well as individual personalities within the wine trade who have achieved great success. Well done to everyone involved!
This year’s dinner was all the more important as it celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Challenge, since it’s beginnings in 1984 founded by Robert Joseph and Charles Metcalfe. Many well known individual “wine celebrities” enjoyed the Awards Dinner as well as the odd non-wine related celeb, who have a keen interest in wine, such as Mick Hucknell of Simply Red fame.
It was good for us to meet up once again with familiar faces from our time working on the IWC Crew back in April, when all the judging took place at Lords Cricket Ground, and we enjoyed sharing a glass (or two) of Trophy Award winning wine.
Also receiving an award that evening was long standing IWC Crew Member John, who has amazingly worked for 25 years as part of the team. Here he is proudly receiving his own trophy: It was a fantastic evening and a wonderful way to see the fruits of all the hard labour that has gone into the IWC year. Now the process begins all over again for IWC 2014 … Bring it on!!!
An occasion that we had been looking forward to was a trip to The Assembly Rooms on George Street in Edinburgh to see Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin and Olly Smith at their Three Wine Men event. A leisurely drive up to Edinburgh didn’t leave us much time to check into our B&B, Dalry Guesthouse, and get across the assault course of tram works between Haymarket and the City Centre. Therefore, we arrived with all of 30 seconds to spare at Olly Smith’s Waxing Lyrical about Weird Wines.
Featured wines were:
Rockburn Pinot Gris, 2011, New Zealand, #strictlywine
Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, 2012, Greece, #hedonismwines – Our top pick
Roccolo Grassi Valpolicella, 2008, Italy, #wineman- Kel’s top pick
Andeluna Malbec, 2012, Argentina, #spiritedwines
Kel got a mention from Olly and round of applause in celebration of his stripy jacket …
Later in the day, Tim Atkin presented cheese and wine matching with Tanny Gill of Tanny Gill Cheese and what a fabulous matching it was:
Chapel Down Bacchus, 2011 with Connage Crowdie (cow’s milk), Inverness, Scotland.
Jurancon Sec, Chant des Vignes, Domaine Cauhape, 2012 with Bonnet (hard goat’s milk), Stewarton, Scotland.
Faldeos Nevados Malbec, 2011 with Admiral Collingwodd (hard cow’s milk), Northumberland (stinky but oh so good!)
Bleasdale, The Wise One Tawny 10 year old, Langhorne Creek with Harrogate Blue.
In between these wonderful Masterclasses, we did a tour of the main hall where 27 suppliers were showcasing wines, cheese, fudge, Riedel glassware, as well as a WSET stand. Tim Atkin was displaying his photography, whilst Olly and Oz were promoting their latest books.
Majestic Wine, Caixas Godello Martin Codax, 2012, Spain – very drinkable.
Wines of Portugal, Alvarinho Solar de Serrade, 2012, Portugal – zesty.
Wines of Portugal, Pato Frio Antao Vaz, 2011, Portugal – nice to taste again.
Wines of Portugal, Quinta de Saes Encruzado, 2011, Portugal
The Wine Society, Castillo del Baron Monastrell, Yecla, 2012, Spain
The Wine Society, Vinha do Reino, Douro, 2010, Portugal – we liked this.
The Wine Society, Pitti (Pittnauer), 2011, Austria – impressed.
Falcon Wine Ltd, Herdade Tapada do Falcao, Rocha Rosa, 2009, 2010, 2011, Portugal
Wines of Brasil, Aurora Pinot Noir, 2012
Wines of Brasil, Lido Carraro Dadivas Pinot Noir, 2010
Lidl UK, Medoc AC, 2011, France
Lidl UK, Chateauneuf du Pape AOP, 2012, France – not bad at all.
Wines of Chile, Valdivieso Reserva Pinot Noir, 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Wines of Chile, Valdivieso Single Vineyard Merlot 2009, Sagrada Familia, Curico Valley, Chile – full bodied, dark and smooth, ummm.
Wines of Chile, Carmen Carmenere Gran Reserva, 2011, Apalta, Colchagua, Chile
Wines of Chile, Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010, Colchagua, Chile – Kel liked this one.
Vino Wines, Thorn Clarke Mount Crawford Riesling, 2012, Australia
Diemersfontein Coffee Pinotage, 2011, South Africa
California Wines, Parducci Small Lot Petite Sirah, 2009, California
California Wines, Bonterra Zinfandel, 2010, California – juicy, fruity and drinkable.
Morrisons, Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, New Zealand
Morrisons, Castigilione Barbaresco, 2009, Italy – Kel liked this one.
L’Art du Vin, Velvet, Gerhard Pittnauer, NV, Burgenland, Austria – light and fruity.
L’Art du Vin, Mencia, Pittacum, 2007, Bierzo, Spain
Yapp Brothers, Savoie L’Orangiere: Tiollier Freres, 2012, France – fresh and smooth lemon.
Yapp Brothers, Crozes Hermitage: Alain Graillot, 2011, France
Waitrose, Magnus Hill Chardonnay, 2012, Australia
Reuben’s Wine Store, Circle of Life White, 2011, South Africa
Halewood Romania, Sebes Alba Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, Romania
Mud House Wine Company, Mud House South Island Pinot Gris, 2011, New Zealand
Mud House Wine Company, Mud House Gewürztraminer, 2010, New Zealand – we liked this one.
The day was nicely rounded off by a trip to Bon Vivant, Thistle Street, for a lovely glass of Villa Wolf, Riesling Dry, 2011 for Ruth and Alvarinho, Adega de Moncao, Portugal for Kel, followed by The Oxford Bar, Young Street (drinking hole of Ian Rankin’s TV Detective Rebus) for a pint with Oz Clarke.
Following on from our exploits working at the International Wine Challenge in April, we arrived back in London to crew the Taste of Gold event, a showcase of medal winning wines, including those awarded Trophies, Golds, Silvers, some Bronzes and Commended.
It was great to be back working with the gang again.
The first part of the day focused on trade tasting only, to be followed by public tasting in the evening.
Between us we looked after and promoted the following producers’ wines:
An easy drinking wine, juicy with fresh red fruits and soft tannins, great value retailing at £8.99.
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Pinot Noir, 2011 – Chilean Pinot Noir & Chilean Red Trophy & Gold
A beautifully crafted new world Pinot, cherry and raspberry entwined with savoury characteristics, complex and approachable. One of my favourites (^R). Retails at £19.99.
Vina Underraga ‘Terroir Hunter’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 – Maipo Valley Trophy & Gold
Intense blackcurrant nose with hints of cedar and mint, good structure and long finish. This wine received very positive attention from those who tried it. Retails at £12.99.
Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir, 2011 – Gold
More subtle than the 20 Barrels Pinot, depth of red fruit flavours with hints of nutty savouriness and oak. Retails at £35.
Cono Sur Single Vineyard Syrah, 2011 – Gold
Very well done Syrah with red fruit and bramble flavours, peppery spice and good oak balance. Another firm favourite for me (^R) and many who tried it, especially at this price. Retails at £11.49.
Marques de Casa Carmenere, 2011 – Silver
A powerful wine, spicy red and dark fruits, chunky tannins. Retails at £12.99.
Marques de Casa Chardonnay, 2011 – Silver
Lovely, fresh, tropical, pineapple, flavours, nicely integrated oak adding body and structure. I could quite happily quaff this one (^R). Retails at £12.99.
Calmel Joseph Cotes du Roussillon Villages, 2011 – Cotes du Roussillon Villages Trophy & Gold
Fresh, summer fruits with black pepper spice. Retails at £10.99.
Villa Blanche Chardonnay, 2012 – Commended
Tropical fruit aromas with citrus hints, good acidic balance. Retails at £8.99.
Calmel Joseph Caramany, 2011 – Guest wine from producer not entered in IWC
The 50% Carignan in this blend highlighted violets and spice. The winemaker described this as the big brother to his Cotes du Roussillon Villages. Retails at £14.99.
This was a really enjoyable event, as much by meeting and chatting with members of the trade and the public, as well as the IWC crew and Co-Chairs, Charles Metcalfe, Derek Smedley, Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin and Peter McCombie. Look forward to seeing you all again soon!
In May, we managed to get down to this year’s London International Wine Fair, held for the last time at ExCel before moving to Olympia next year!
It was great to see many familiar faces including the gang from Local Wine School, International Wine Challenge, Ribafreixo, Alentejo, Portugal and Kathy from Jordan Winery, Stellenbosch, South Africa. We also had the pleasure of meeting Virginia Wines producer Andrew Hodson, Veritas Wines, whose Petit Verdot 2010 we were introduced to at a recent NEWTS tasting and a rather top wine it was too.
We had the opportunity to try wines from new and far off places, Brazil, China, Japan, Georgia, India, Mexico, Peru, Ukraine but we were too late to try Thailand – already quaffed! It was great to see many English Wine Producers at the Hub’s pop-up tasting, including the multi-award winning Gusbourne Estate sparkling wine range (IWC, IWSC and Decanter).
However, it wasn’t all just tasting, there was learning to be done too! We attended Masterclasses and talks on:
- “Croatia’s Flagship Wine”, Graševina, with Joe Wadsack and Saša Špiranec
- Koshu with Lynne Sherriff
- “How to communicate with your customer” with the Knackered Mother herself Helen McGinn
- Languedoc-Roussillon Sud de France Top 100 Wine Competition Teaser Tasting with Tim Atkin
- Hungarian “Volcanoes and Vines” with Dr Caroline Gilby
As an interlude, we headed to The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar, squeezed between retail outlets in Leicester Square, quite retro 80s in feel, reasonable selection of wines, especially liked the Callabriga 2008 from Douro, Portugal. On the food front, the mixed platter was a bit of a let down but the chips were good.
Our own personal International Wine Challenge
“The Challenge can break you! Are you prepared for really hard work, emotionally and physically demanding, relentless and exhausting! You need to be sure you can handle this. Do you think you can?” Was more or less what we were asked at our interview in February when we jovially hopped into Chris’s office in London all excited about the prospect of being selected to work as part of the crew on the International Wine Challenge 2013. We were under no illusion that it was going to be tough and were already mentally preparing ourselves for it, but still to hear someone say that it has broken people was slightly freaky and I just hoped to God I could keep up the pace and not be weak.
Wow – we survived. We learnt a lot about wine and tasting, the competition judging process, working as part of an eclectic team of people, who we are proud to have worked with.
What a great experience!