As far as venues go, the Tower of London tends to speak for itself. It certainly wasn’t difficult to give directions. Once ensconced in the Tower, Champagne was chosen as a starting point by most customers, so let’s do the same. Tempting as it was to go straight for the exquisite Salon 1999 much was to be gained by working through the Delamotte range. The non-vintage was the crowd pleaser, both blancs de blancs were more serious and a strong showing from the rosé had more than a few people trying to think of a use for it over Christmas.
Anyone who bypassed the riesling and Loire/French regional tables on their way to the more wintry end of the room missed out on a few gems. The Schloss Schönborn 2003 Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg (do I need to say it’s from Germany?) was popular, along with perennial favourites Domaine du Nozay Sancerre and Domaine de Saissac Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rhône wines, both red and white, are just the thing for winter. Our exclusive producer Tardieu-Laurent is a firm staff favourite so most Wine Tours, new this year and sometimes resembling The Pied Piper of Wine, stopped at the table. Rasteau is an under-rated village in the Southern Rhône and the 2008 Tardieu-Laurent example is exceptional. I had a customer take four cases and then two more, reasoning it had all her Christmas red eventualities covered. Traditional fans of White Burgundy were prepared to trial either the Guy Louis or Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites as a match for turkey. It couldn’t hurt to just make sure though, so the Burgundy tables were well patronised. Both Olivier Leflaive and Domaines Lefaive were popular (it always helps to have the family themselves pouring the wines) whilst Domaines des Varoilles and Matrot probably had the pick of the reds.
As the evening progressed, people pooled at the serious end of the room around the Bordeaux Châteaux and Spanish and Italian reds. Here it was darker and more crowded, with our own Adam Brett-Smith and the renowned Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus anchoring. Peter did manage to slip upstairs each night to give a lecture on his new venture in St Emilion, Château du Rocheyron. With the 2010 available to taste as a practical augment to the theory, many customers were ready to sign on the dotted line, even if the dotted line wasn’t quite ready yet. Stay posted. Not present himself, but with his wines just as revered, Italian producer Franchetti had a busy table, with his well respected Tuscan Tenuta di Trinoro wines almost eclipsed by the sheer audacity of his newer Sicilian venture, Tenuta di Passopisciaro, perched 1000m up on the side of Mount Etna and utilising unusual native grape varieties.
The smaller, family run Bordeaux Château de Lamarque and Château Phélan Segur, along with the wines of the Mitjavile family, all long-time friends of C&B, went some way to diffusing the hype and mystery of Bordeaux and were rewarded with plenty of orders. Ets. J.P. Moueix impressed as always.
Dominated as the tasting was by Europe, the wines of the new world were afforded a shared table. Fortunately, there was plenty of power and pedigree there. The Hyde de Villaine chardonnay was all Cadillac power with European finesse. Even the clean-cut Mr Pilkington of our office seemed to slip into an Aussie drawl as he explained why The Lane’s Adelaide Hills Cabernet was named ‘The 19th Meeting’. It was at the 19th meeting to decide the name that they decided on it.
Like a good Christmas lunch, the selection ended with the lovely C&B 10 year old Tawny Port and the molasses like Pedro Ximenez sherry. Then a quick stop off at the order desks or with one of our ipad toting staff (who says C&B is old school?) and out into the night.