Despite the optimism of our hosts, tasting the full range of wines on offer seemed an optimistic and daunting task, particularly for those uninitiated to the world of sniffing and spitting. However, Champagne seemed as good a place to start as any, and where better than Taittinger?
The esteemed champagne house drew the first real crowds of the evening as enthusiasts held out their glasses to be led through a seven stage tasting. Champagnes ranged from the “base”, Brut Reserve, which at an RRP of £38.99 is the house’s most recognisable and widely available champagne, to the infinitely more exclusive Blanc de Blancs Brut, which retails at almost £150.
Jostling for attention against the big names of French champagne, a series of stands showcased the delights of English sparkling wines. With three stalls representing five different producers from the south of England, the fair’s attendees were left in no doubt that wine producers on the south coast are providing a viable sparkling alternative to their cross-channel counterparts.
Designed to reflect the range and variety offered by Arblaster and Clarke’s longstanding wine tours, the twenty stands guided attendees around the world with different wines. And, while some stands represented single estates, others showcased the wares of larger-scale international distributors. Liberty Wines, which has won a distinguished reputation importing and distributing wine to some of the UK’s best bars and restaurants, brought 10 wines to the fair.
Taking noses out of glasses, attendees could also take a moment to look round the historic buildings. Known as the ‘spiritual home’ of the wine trade, the grand rooms, constructed in the 1670s, was the perfect setting for the ‘vinous’ event. The current hall has been home to The Worshipful Company of Vintners since its construction in the 1670s, but it is believed the Company has possessed the land since the 15th century.