High Spirits at the BFT

Thanks to the eagle-eyes of Justin Roberts (@justinjerez) I was alerted to an exciting new wine trade tasting called “the BFT”. Despite me being unable to say or write this without thinking of Roald Dahl’s BFG, I think the organisers have done a grand job of creating something new which I hope will be repeated.

The BFT is the Big Fortified Tasting (http://www.thebft.com). [For those who don’t know what that means, it covers wines such as Sherry, Port & Madeira (plus a few assorted others). They are all wines made with the addition of spirit, which means the lowest alcohol at the tasting was probably around 15%. Ouch!]

Fortified wines are a bit of a poor relation at the moment. Consumers do not seem to think of these wines as particularly sexy or “happening”. They are immediately associated with grannies, cigars and dusty bar shelves. Of course the truth is completely different (except for the cigars – for some).

It was great to see a very full house at the tasting, including top journalists, MWs, buyers, and restaurant staff. It was also interesting to see that people were asking questions and getting excited about the wines, not just revisiting old friends.

I hope that with events such as this, and a motivated wine trade, these categories can finally be revived. They offer such a wonderful range of flavours and experiences, and a diversity of culture and history with each style and region.

I fear, however, that the impetus is unlikely to come from the current producers and brands as it will require a major re-imagining of what the wines are, when they are consumed and who they are for, for this to happen. Is anyone brave enough for that? Go on!

One of the first steps should be to encourage the organisers to open up the event to consumers and allow them to be able to sample these wines side-by-side too. There are so many styles to choose from it can be difficult to get your head around it, but a little education goes a long way. Let’s hope they do!

I used the opportunity to compare lots of different Fino and Manzanilla sherries side by side as I think they offer a style of wine that could attract new drinkers to this kind of category and you almost never get a chance to do this. My favourites included:

  • La Gitana Manzanilla: Crisp, with a light freshness, salty, almond skin finish
  • La Guita Manzanilla: Fuller bodied, almond, dry and salty, but fresh and delicious
  • La Ina Fino Muy Seco: Light, mineral, edge of sweeter citrus especially on finish
  • La Bota No.18 Fino de Machanurdo Alto: Typical dryness, but fuller bodied, with rounded finish not dry mineral. Very nice.

In fact the whole La Bota range from Equipo Navazos (via Rhone to Rioja in UK) was delicious – including the two wonderful La Bota Palo Cortados, No.21 (“rich & nutty but with a high alcohol that contrasted well”) and No.17 (“Caramelly touch on top of hazlenut richness, delicious”)