Its a fine time for fine wine

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Just back from a great afternoon and evening of wine tasting, chats, sampling of foods and a bit of tweeting (thanks to Petra Exton who took some great photos, including the one on this post – check out her photography site) and to Gwen McCann for coming round with me and sharing her excellent thoughts on the wines.)

The Fine Wine Fair has kicked off and was pretty busy even though it was an increasingly damp Friday evening in Chelsea.

Some quick thoughts (more on the Wine Conversation site soon):

1. Fine Wine? Well, most of the wines on show are NOT the kinds you’d be buying in the hope of selling on at a profit in 20 years. These are wines to be drunk by you, with friends, in the next year or two – or even day or two. They are ‘fine’ in the sense that the focus is on wines that are at the higher end of pricing, and lower volume produced, of wines that can be bought in retail.

If you want to venture outside of your usual high street, or supermarket, wine aisle, then these are great wines to try and buy (you can buy or order, usually with a discount, on-site).

2. Several countries and regions have made the effort to come and tell their stories – not as individual producers, but as whole bodies. Germany, Chile, Spain & Bordeaux are there not just to show some wines, but help you see how they are different from each other, and what variety they all offer. It is definitely worth trying through a few of these stands.

Some highlights for me were:

a) the wines of Bordeaux. I sometimes think that they struggle to offer wines that will appeal to most consumers, but in the context of ‘affordable yet not cheap’ wines, they start to show their class. I particularly liked the Chateau Carteau, St. Emilion Grand Cru 2006

b) a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga in Spain; Botani 2009– a grapey style that you’d expect, but also a dry, crisp and heral leafy element that made it quite different

c) a drier (yet still fruity) style of Riesling on the German stand from Fritz Haag, the Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Trocken 2009 – fresh, mandarin and lime cirtus fruit as well as a hint of sweet honey. Very nice!

3. The hall s very attractive, but not that big. It could get busy in front of some stands. If you are planning on attending this weekend, do go early to get to the front of some of these queues.

4. The New Zealanders are not there in numbers, but as usual, they punch above their weight. Check out the Bibby Wines (@bibbywines) Pinot Noir and the range of delicious wines from Little Beauty (@littlebeauty). The first is an artisan pinot noir with lots of class, despite being so young. The latter range are all interesting, including the usual Sauvignon Blanc and Dry Riesling but also some fruity Pinot Gris and a Gewurtztraminer with a definite pink grapefruit pith character – most unusual and tasty.

These are not only interesting wines, but wineries that understand the potential of social media connections – so check them out on twitter and facebook.

5. There are several interesting masterclasses happening, with particular reference to the wine & chocolate matching that @robertogiorgione is running, plus there are personal shoppers to give advice, Italian foods, Spanish hams, interesting coffees, wine investment businesses, and more, … and more. There is a LOT of different stuff in a small space, and it is a great chance to discover lots of new things – for around £20 (or £10 if you can find one of the fliers going around outside)

6. And lastly, if you do make it along, do find a moment to take part in the wine auction run by Bid for Wine raising money for Help for Heroes. There are some great lots, and it is for a very good cause

If you do go along, let me know what you thought, and what you bought!

The Fine Wine Fair:
15-17 October, 2010
Chelsea Old Town Hall, London