Remembrance Day saw Patrick Eyres of Bin21 put together an 11/11/11 tasting in Morpeth Rugby Club bringing together a cadre of suppliers to show off a wide range of wines to all comers. I initially heard of the event through a friend on Facebook and decided it was the right time to head up the A1 and see some more of what Bin21 has to offer, especially after the seeing him at the Northumbria Food & Wine Festival in October.
There were 6 tables dedicated to wine and I happily moved between them sampling the mixed range of whites and reds, but it was the fine range of Ports which stood out and gave the most pleasure.
I will, however, get the main grumble out of the way right at the beginning and complain about the silly little goblet glasses used for the tasting which didn’t do much to show off the aromas. I managed to exchange mine for a more tulip-esque one later on in the evening but I was crying out for a proper tasting glass!
Table 1 was hosted by Mark O’Bryen MW of Hatch Mansfield who was more than happy to exchange thoughts with me on the wines and syles as I tasted. I enjoyed the 2010 La Violette Viognier, a Vin du Pays d’Oc by Jean-Luc Colombo with its closed, subtle nose and surprisingly delicate flavours. It was all wrapped up in a viscous texture with good weight behind it leading into an elegant stonefruit finish.
Changing colours and the 2010 Caliterra Carmenere Reserva was interesting enough, well balanced with a meaty nose & a touch of perfume, but it was the 2009 Esk Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir that edged it, mainly for being the best Pinot Noir in the room (there was only one other!). It had a subtle spicy nose, good attack on the palate with savoury acidity down the sides, balanced and with a clean finish.
Mark’s dessert offering was the Lourentsford Noble late harvest Semillon from South Africa; a fine Acacia honey nose, luscious texture but heading towards being a little too sweet for more than a couple of sips.
At table 2 was Simon Powys Maurice, Director of Laytons Wine Merchants who poured me my first Corbieres Blanc, the Château du Vieux Parc Tradition. The Grenache Blanc and Rolle (Vermentino) blend was floral, a little herby and perfectly pleasant. Also good was the Diemersdal Private Collection from Durbanville, South Africa. It was an old-school Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon balanced with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a dash of Malbec producing a dry wine with Cassis nose, refreshing balance and crying out for some food to wash down.
There was a double-act at table 3 with Roger (surname and business card absent) of Forth Wines and Stuart Birtles, Regional Account Manager for Champagne Laurent-Perrier. Given my renowned inability to critique sparkling wine I didn’t task Stuart too much but enjoyed their still wines, starting with the Lenz Moser Gruner Veltliner from Austria with its peppery nettle aspects (although it may have been a little too sweet and simple). Also sweet for a dry wine, but definitely not simple, was the Chocolate Box GSM – deliciously rich with potent sweet fruit, maybe a bit over-extracted but damn tasy! The next red I tried was the young but classic Beronia 2006 Rioja Reserva which had a spicy nose with a touch of aniseed, good fruit and balanced tannin. I savoured this wine more than another Rioja Reserva on one of the other tables even though that was from the more renowned 2005 vintage.
Lenz Moser provided simple sweet relief with the 2008 Prestige Beerenauslese, showing an earthy nose and savoury acidity.
Table 4 took on a Gallic charm with Richard Bouglet, Director of L’Art du Vin and a superb white in the form of the Domaine de la Rochette 2010 Sauvignon de Touraine. This had a herb and nettle nose with a full textured mouthfeel and a long, clean finish. Also good was Les Acacias 2010 Macon Villages showing a smoky nose – dry with a lot of minerality, sharp with good length. Two reds also made for pleasant drinking; the Spina di Bacco 2009 Primitivo with its subtle red fruit on the nose, dry, medium bodied with light sweet fruit on the palate; then the too-young 2009 Château la Condamine 2009 Corbieres, which had a restrained but deep nose, dark berry fruit with good character but harsh tannins that needed time to settle – added bottle-age should reward the patient.
Table 5 had a very familiar feel with the pairing of both local Portuguese suppliers, Paul Raven of PortoVino and Marta Mateus of MartaVine. This meant that I’d already tasted a large selection of their dry wines over the last year, but luckily they had a vast array of Ports to tempt me instead (and they were all good!).
I couldn’t resist another sip of Paul’s Dalva Tawny Reserve (happily tasted at NF&WF and Living North) and it was as fine as ever with its fresh taste and nutty aspect. Marta parried this with her Jeropiga; a fortified Rosé with a baked/stewed nose, rich and syrupy with a deliciously moreish flavour. However, the star of the table was the Quinta do Portal 2003 Vintage Port in half bottle, which Marta had decanted before the tasting – I made sure I got a taste before it was all gone. It was a difficult wine to describe due to a flavour profile I couldn’t quite identify; a sweet metallic nose with a mineral edge, tinny at the front, mellow with mineral layers and amazing complexity throughout. The alcohol was superbly integrated and the finish was endless – a truly delicious wine.
Table 6 had Chris Mooney of John E. Fells & Sons (owned by Symington Family Estates) with a heavily Iberian influenced set of wines. The Torres Fransola (80% Sauvignon Blanc, half of which is Barrel Fermented, plus 20% Parellada) showed a typical Sauvignon nose with a clean, fresh taste and a touch of elegance – restrained and rather good. A trio of Torres reds were lined up next with the 2008 Celeste Crianza from Ribera del Duero impressing the most. It had a meaty nose with dark, earthy flavours – a contemplative but young wine. Also good was the fruity Ibéricos 2008 Rioja Crianza with smoky, spicy fruit and balanced vanilla oak palate that, on reflection, couldn’t have come from anywhere else but Rioja.
Chris was also in competition with Paul & Marta for excellent Ports beginning with the Smith Woodhouse 1999 bottle matured LBV; rich with young sweet fruit and showing more character than most LBVs. Then there was Grahams “The Tawny” (averaging 8 years old so only able to use a generic descriptor) which was fresh and minty with a herb nose; light but classic, good toasty flavours with a lifting hazelnut component. These all paled into insignificance against the Warre’s 1996 Cavadinha Single Quinta Vintage Port with its rich, concentrated, syrupy nose. It was savoury and balanced with good texture, firm tannins, some preserved fruit and a delicious coffee and dark chocolate, drinking very well.
Of course it wasn’t all positive over the evening and there were some so-so wines – at least for my palate. This included an old-school, over-oaked Californian Chardonnay (which my friend loved) plenty of plain, dry reds and simple whites. I was also disappointed by the lack of choice for Pinot Noir, with only 2 mid-level New Zealand examples on show.
All that aside my pick of the wines I tried on the night were the Domaine de la Rochette 2010 Sauvignon de Touraine (L’Art du Vin), Torres 2008 Celeste Crianza, Ribera del Duero (Fells), Warre’s 1996 Cavadinha Single Quinta (Fells) & Quinta do Portal 2003 Vintage Port (MartaVine).
It was a busy evening with a steady flow of guests and Paddy on good form; enthusiastic, bubbly and the perfect host mingling and mixing with everyone in the room. The presenters at the table were very willing to engage in conversation and I strolled to the bus station warmed by a good dose of alcohol and enjoyable conversation. For only a £10 entry fee this was also one of the best value tastings I’ve been to (not counting the 2-hour multi-bus journey back home!) and I can’t wait to visit Bin21 again in the near future.