I like the combination of wine and sport. Champagne at the races, beer and bowls, Pimms and croquet (as you do), vodka shots and a mad dash to the nearest souvlaki bar...
So, we're about to be hit with World Cup fever. To mark the occassion, last week, Bibendum hosted a flurry of London food and wine bloggers for the Quarter Finals of its World Cup of Wine. Some key wine producing countries were matched head to head, white for white and red for red. We tasted, we voted. Only the winners would progress through to the semi finals next month. Corks popped, spittoons creaked, the pressure ran high.
The thing I love about Bibendum's wine tasting events is that they're not only interesting and informative, but they make wine fun and accessible. There were some serious wine experts in the room. And there was me. I did try to hold back on my usual comments of the "tastes like Creamy Soda" ilk but, as my tasting notes will reveal, you can't stop me thinking them.
There are already some blog posts from wine fanatics recording the results of the evening - see Wine Passionista, Bibendum Times and Cellar Fella. The only difference between my post and theirs is that they know what they're talking about. So, I'll let my tasting notes speak for themselves...
Round 1: Argentina v South Africa
Saam Mountain Middelburg Chenin Blanc, South Africa, Paarl 2007 (£9.51): This wine gained one of my highest scores of the evening, and is great value at £9.51. GD expert tasting notes: "6 months in oak; creamy; bit like a chardy but slightly acidic aftertaste". Grand.
v Argento Reserva Torrontes, Argentina, Torrontes, Salata, 2009 (£6.59): "Fruity, light, aromatic. Would go well with seafood, Thai". Lovely, easy drinking, but no match for the Chenin Blanc.
Vinedos de la Posada Merlot, Argentina, La Rioja 2009 (£6.51): "Classic, soft South American Merlot; Crowd Pleaser [rubs chin, I imagine]; Organic; Good value".
v Journeys End "The Cape Doctor" Shiraz, South Africa, Stellenbosch 2005 (£14.76): The clear favourite, and quite a price difference. For me, it just edged out the Merlot (even taking price into account, as we tried to do...). There was much discussion about South African red developing a real following of late (Tim Atkin is a convert) and being one of the most exciting red wine regions of the moment. GD's expert tasting notes included: "Not too heavy; lovely; restrained and elegant" [I'm clearly having a moment here].
Round 2: Spain v Australia
I tried to put my Aussie bias aside, but my palate likes a big red and old school oak.
Cuatro Rayas, Verdejo, Spain Rueda 2008 (£7.76): Tasting notes reveal only that "The house wine at El Bulli is a Verdejo - not this one." Helpful. In any case, this wine was no match for the big Aussie...
v D'Arenberg The Hermit Crab, Viogner Marsanne, Australia, McLaren Vale 2008 (£9): "Bit oily; aromatic; no oak, just fruit, but full bodied; thick". It got my vote.
Damana 5, Taula, Spain, Ribera del Duero, 2008 (£10.01): Made from the same grape as Rioja, but coming from a warmer climate, this wine spends 5 months in oak and is the entry level, softer wine from this new winery with the funky label. With astounding eloquence, I noted but a single thought: "Has a full on finish".
v Katnook Founders Block Shiraz, Australia, Coonawarra 2006 (£10.75): Spicy and rich, this one had it on the nose in a tough battle of the reds.
Round 3: Chile v Italy
Augustinos Reserva Privada Chardonnay, Chile, Bio Bio 2008 (£7.25): "Harsh; needs food". This was suffered my lowest score of the evening, although it's only a 2nd vintage wine so a mere bub.
v Lageder, Chardonnay/Pino Griogio, Italy, Dolomites 2008 (£14.50): At twice the price, this was perhaps an unmatched fight, and I found this wine quite expensive for what it is - "lots of minerality; stone fruits" and a northern Italian wine showing Germanic influences. My penmanship is transforming into a relaxed scrawl.
Valdevieso, Cabernet Franc, Chile, Colchagua 2007 (£11.26): "A straight Cab Franc; tastes a bit green and peppery". [The "green" bit may have been lifted from someone else.]
v Ceppaiano "Violetta", Italy, Tuscany 2004 (14.25): "90% Sangiovese, 10% Cab Sauv; warmth, tannin, acidity; smells like Italy". Except, I didn't love it as much as I normally love my Tuscan reds. Not a knock out, but the Violetta had it.
Round 4: France v California
Loredona Pinot Grigio, USA, Califormnia, Monterey Country 2008 (£8.75): "Smells fantastic - doesn't taste as good; short on finish". I tripped over my own heel at this point.
v Chateau Bonnet Reserve, Bordeaux, Entre-deux-Mers 2009 (£9): "Not oaked; quite well balanced". No stunners in this round, but ok.
Marmesa Syrah, USA, California, Central Coast 2006 (£9.75): "Fruit and spice; Metallic aftertaste" [I seem to recall I did not think this a good thing at the time].
v els Pyreneus, Les Hauts de l'Agly, Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2006 (£10): Good value, 14.5% alcohol, but balanced. Would probably improve with food. "Tastes like oyster" - hmmm.. Clearly, it had been a long evening.
Drum roll ....
The winners of the evening will play off as follows in the Semi Finals on 13th May: France v Italy, and Australia v South Africa.
As far as the rivalries go, some super heavy weights were pitted against some puny contenders. It's not necessarily the fairest competition, but unless Australia gets knocked out prematurely, I support the notion that it's all about the fun, trying some interesting wines and picking up some knowledge along the way.
It was great to meet a whole new array of wine lovers. Thanks to Gal, Gareth and Erica of Bibendum for hosting yet another fabulous wine evening.