It is no exaggeration to say that I could spend almost every day of the year at tastings in London which makes me fairly selective as to the ones I do choose to attend; generally, I decline most invitations unless there is a real prospect of finding something new and exciting. Consequently, writing off a day to judge at the Wine Merchant Top 50 awards was slightly out of character but it was also probably one of the most interesting tastings I have been to in a long while.
Tasting blind does really put you on your mettle so it is fair to say that tasting 200+ wines in the morning followed by 80+ in the afternoon did represent something of a challenge. However, my tasting partner (the delightful and frighteningly knowledgable Jane Cuthbertson of Barrica wines in Preston) and I were not to be fazed by the prospect and launched ourselves into the first flight with wreckless enthusiasm - helped no doubt by being greeted with a flight of Champagnes! Thereafter followed a complete spectrum of offerings which ranged from the monumentally dull through to the truly outstanding stopping en route at the seriously whacky. Certain wines forced you to seriously question why anyone would submit such dross into a tasting such as this whilst others offered such completely different flavour profiles that caused you to question your own understanding and objectivity.
Having weeded out the chaff in the morning, the afternoon followed a similar pattern as those wines that made the cut were re-tasted and, with new partners, we set about the process of awarding medals and commendations.* Being a blind tasting, at this stage I am still unaware as to what was tasted and what was particularly rated but watch this space for new arrivals in the very near future.
*Biodynamic sceptics look away now
It was at this point that we felt that something had gone awry. Duncan Murray and I were feeling decidedly underwhelmed by a flight of Italian reds which had met with much acclaim in the morning but were now struggling to show much in the way of character at all. Consulting his phone app (whatever that might be) Duncan announced that the Biodynamic calendar had thrown somehitng of a curve ball into the equation, switching from being a fruit day in the morning to a root day in the afternoon. I can understand why this subject continues to be ridiculed by so many and much of the philosophy does come across as complete nonsense but non-believers would be well advised to taste bottles of the same wine on different days within the biodynamic calendar before dismissing the subject completely.