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Friday, May 21, 2010

London International Wine Fair, Day 1 - with Naked Wines

I once again had the privilege (in my capacity as an "Archangel") this week of being invited by Naked Wines to join them at the LIWF and help find some exciting new winemakers for the site.

After an early start to travel from Bristol to the ExCel exhibition centre in London's Docklands, I joined a motley crew of Archangels, along with the Naked buying team assembled at the Fox Inn, adjacent to ExCel, for coffee and pastries. We were then briefed on our mission. A group of around 20 loyal customers were divided into teams with a brief to seek out the best wines and winemakers currently seeking UK representation from France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.

Having opted to join the Aus/NZ group, we set off to find "our" winemakers, to taste all of their offerings and decide which we felt were most suitable for the Naked stable. That is to say they had to be unrepresented, prepared to offer exclusivity for some of their wines, and they had to be smaller, boutique wineries. Needless to say the wines also had to be great, and to represent good value.

In return Naked Wines were looking to get their wines listed and available for sale from the site (pre-orders) the very next day! An awesome proposition, which has never been done before in the UK, and one which certainly generated a lot of interest with the winemakers and the wine media.

We tasted some fantastic wines during the morning, and many of them could have made it, my only regret was that we had to choose one winemaker to represent both Australia and New Zealand as a group, and there were a couple of extremely good NZ wineries that I have asked Naked Wines to follow up on (Matahiwi Estates' Alexia and Mt Hector wines from Wairarapa, near Martinborough, and Osawa Wines' Flying Mouton label from Hawke's Bay). All of these wines were good, but the stand-outs were Flying Mouton Sauvignon Blanc and Reserve, and the Mt Hector Pinot Noir, which was exceptionally good value.

We assembled again for a light lunch back at the Fox, and then the groups had to reach a consensus on what were the preferred wines from their region. Then we had to go and taste all 11 of the favoured wines before selecting an overall winner that would be listed on the site for sale the next day.

Once the final round of tastings had been done, we met at the "Access Zone", where most of the social networking seminars and events were taking place at LIWF to feed back our findings and also to decide which wine was to be our champion of champions.

LIWF 2010

As the film posted below shows, we had the opportunity to introduce the three final winemakers (although Peter Logan was otherwise engaged so couldn't make it), we all retasted their wines and had a show of hands for the one to be listed. Rowan Gormley (Naked Wines Founder and MD) was clearly impressed with all three wineries and all five wines, so Naked Wines will be listing the lot!

Naked Wine Consumer Selection from ryan and gabriella opaz on Vimeo.

So...the final five were:

Logan Wines - Orange/Mudgee, NSW, Australia - Weemala Gewürtztraminer, a fruit-driven, pale golden wine with a beautiful passionfruit aroma, well-balanced tropical fruit flavours and florality, and a lingering citrus finish - a real highlight even for those who don't usually favour white wines.

Logan Wines - Orange/Mudgee, NSW, Australia - Logan Shiraz, deep bright red in colour, with an intense, peppery, plum/berry aroma and warm, berry fruit flavour with hints of beefiness, with a lengthy peppery finish.

Lagar de Bezana - Cachapoal Valley, Chile - Aluvion Gran Reserva, deep red, blackberries, plums, smokey, chocolate and toffee notes, with an exceptionally velvety mouthfeel and light tannins - delicious!

Bodega Campos de Dulcinea - Toledo, Spain - Campos de Dulcinea Tempranillo Syrah blend, beautiful cherry red colour, incredible sweetness and smoothness on the palate and packed with fruit, a really bright young wine perfect for easy summer drinking.

Bodega Campos de Dulcinea - Toledo, Spain - Campos de Dulcinea Crianza. A big, bold and intense wine, with 12 months in French and American oak. Full-flavoured and fruity, with a deep garnet colour and avery long finish - awesome!

After all that hard work, we were kindly invited back to the Fox for a few beers. All in all it was a wonderful day, and a pleasure to be working with people who are so passionate and enthusiastic about what they are doing to revolutionise the UK wine market.

LIWF 2010 with Naked Wines

Naked Wine Consumer Selection from ryan and gabriella opaz on Vimeo.