This summer sees the return of the EAT! Newcastle Gateshead Festival for 2012 including the Wine Fair that will help finish it off on Sunday July 29th.
As usual the Newcastle Wine School, founded by local wine professional Chris Powell, has been involved in the organising of the Wine event showcasing some of the best local retailers, but this year Chris has pulled something special out of the hat by bringing a Masterclass with Tim Atkin MW sponsored by Wines of Lebanon.
Timothy John Atkin, born 1961 in Kent, son of Sport Journalist Ron Atkin, is familiar to many with his regular TV appearances as one of the wine experts on Saturday Kitchen, trying to locate wines to match the dishes being cooked up on the BBC show – usually on a budget that rarely seems to stray past £8.
Although it’s the first time that I know of Tim putting his wine knowledge on general show in Newcastle it’s not his first foray into the region, as he went to Durham University in the 80s graduating with a BA in Modern Languages.
Tim became a Master of Wine in 2001, one of less than 300 people around the world entitled to MW after their name in recognition of the three years of self study and seminars, sitting the multiple theory papers and blind tastings examinations before the final dissertation (some say it’s the hardest professional examination around). However, it was as a journalist that Atkin entered the wine world in a career that stretches back before the publication of his first book, Chardonnay, in 1992. Tim started writing a wine column for the Guardian newspaper in 1989 before moving to its sister publication The Observer in 1993, which ran for over 16 years. During this time he was also editor of Harpers Wine and Spirit Magazine (2000-2003), won numerous writing awards, co-founded The Wine Gang in 2008 (with Tom Cannavan, Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon and Olly Smith), became a renowned taster and judge at many wine competitions around the world and also the driving force behind the International Wine Challenge, the prestigious yearly blind tasting event which he co-chairs.
After The Observer cut back his column in early 2010 Tim quit to join The Times but, 10 months later, he resigned again after a similar restriction. He also left The Wine Gang (along with Olly Smith) at the end of 2010 and, with Oz Clarke, formed The Three Wine Men whose mission statement is “..to get everyone in the country tasting, experiencing and enjoying new wines..” – they are touring the UK this year, including a tasting in Edinburgh on June 23rd & 24th.
So what can we expect from Tim’s Masterclass? To be honest I don’t know, as I’ve never attended one before! However, I’m a big fan of his writing and tweets (@TimAtkin) and even more so of Lebanese Wines, which I’ve been drinking for 5 years now after tasting a 1999 Château Musar and becoming hooked.
I’ve written about my love affair with this producer on Reign of Terroir and if you’ve had Lebanese wine before it is most likely to have been this most famous export of the small Mediterranean country.
Since then I’ve drank interesting white, rosé and red wines from Musar, Kefraya, Ksara, Massaya and Clos de Cana (a superb bottle of Château de Cana that I got from Vinopolis in London a few years ago) and enjoyed them all with exception of Musar’s new Jeune label, whose generic style is lost amongst hundreds of similar New World wines.
Locally it is Musar that is relatively easy to find; Waitrose and Majestic stock the latest 2004 vintage, Fenwick and Michael Jobling also have some of the older vintages, while Corkscrew Wines in Carlisle have the eclectic Château Musar White as well. However, it is Richard Granger Wines in Jesmond that go a little further and, along with their Château Musar back catalogue, also stock one of the newer Lebanese producers, Massaya.
As the July Masterclass is being run with Wines of Lebanon, the UK promotional campaign organised by the Union Vinicole du Liban (UVL), I’d expect a few of those names to be on show, and probably some I’ve not tasted yet.
Tickets for the Masterclass are £15 on top of the £20 ticket for the main wine Fair – although bring a friend and you can get entry to both for £55. Notwithstanding the rare chance of seeing a real wine guru in the North East (and trying superb Lebanese wines) the main Fair will have over 80 wines available to taste from a selection of the region’s retailers. Currently the Newcastle Wine School website is showing;
Majestic, Michael Jobling, Fenwick, Tyne Wines, Proteas Wines, Carruthers and Kent, Portovino, Spanish Select, The Wine Chambers and Bin 21.
The July 29th event starts at 12:30 in The Assembly Rooms, Fenkle Street with the Masterclass at 14:00.
See you there!