Mid-November saw us return to the International Wine Challenge in London for the first stage of the 2014 competition that has now been split into two parts, with the first ‘Tranche’ being mostly dedicated to Southern Hemisphere producers. This time we found ourselves working at a different location than that of the April 2013 event, the Barbican, where we arrived on a cold, wet Monday morning to begin what would be an intensive fortnight. However, the thought of this was eased by the welcome sight of familiar faces amongst a few newcomers to the crew. It’s strange to think in only April this year we were the newcomers, yet now the new members of the team are coming to us for advice on how to do things and it was nice to know that we could give adequate answers.
The event has been slightly more relaxed than envisaged due to its present size in comparison to the April event, which made for smooth running.
Panel judges at work, alongside Co-Chairs Peter McCombie, Martin Moran, Oz Clarke, Charles Metcalfe, Sam Harrop, Jamie Goode, Richard Bampfield
This year, we were both given positions that had more of a key role to them, which was very exciting as well as a little scary as neither of us wanted any major, or minor, hiccups along the way. Ruth was given the task of ‘Floor Pit Boss’ to ensure the smooth running of the tasting tables, whilst Kel had the position of ‘Dispatch Pit Boss’ whose role it is to oversee the correct dispatch of tasting flights to the tasting tables. Jokes about husband and wife communications swiftly arose as our roles needed to ensure that we made ourselves clearly understood to ensure that the wines arrived at the tables on time. All went well reflecting that this husband and wife team are a perfect match!
The competition week went well and passed by quickly. It was great to meet up with many of the judges again and to witness their expertise at first hand – many red lips and teeth by the end of the competition.
The week was nicely rounded off with a curry dinner all washed down with a nice glass of wine … or two.
The results from this event shall be released on December 4th, so remember to look out for those medals and snap up the wines whilst you can… just in time for Christmas!
Tranche 2 is to be held at The Oval in London, April 2014.
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!!!
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!