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Oddbins Wine Fair, 2000

by Tom Cannavan, 10/2000

For the past few years Oddbins, the UK's multi award-winning High Street wine merchant, has held an Autumn Wine Fair in Edinburgh. The Fair is a chance to taste from literally hundreds of wines in the Oddbins range, get a sneak preview of some new vintages, and meet the wine-makers: at least a dozen top winemakers from across the globe were in attendance this year. Afficionados of the event plan to get there as the doors open, then stop early for a leisurely lunch whilst the crowds peak, before returning later in the day. I find these incredibly busy free-for-all tastings rather too much to take, with constant manoeuvering for position as people crowd the stands and hover in front of bottles and/or spitoons (the hoverers are top of my list to go into room 101 any day!) However, the fair is a fantastic opportunity to taste through a huge selection of wines and talk to the people who made them. Highly recommended next year if you missed this one, as are the similar events usually held in London and Dublin.

Sparkling

Lanson Vintage Champagne 1990, £25.99
Nice glowing golden colour. Quite nettly and herbaceous at first, the nose reveals lots of crisp citrus fruit and over-ripe pear, but then a little toasty, biscuity richness shows through. Very full mousse, the palate is densely packed with crisp apple and pear fruit but shot through with racy acidity. Good length, very persistent mousse. Very good.

Lanson Noble Cuvée 1989, £48.99
Deep, burnished colour. Quite a vinous nose. Baked apples and a little liquorice note. Palate is quite crisp, but there is powerful ripe fruit and a classy depth, with layers of fruit and nuttiness. The mousse is soft and full. Would have liked a little more length. It's good, but two bottles of vintage would be my choice at this stage.

White

Wirra Wirra (Australia) "W2" White 1999, £4.99
Clean, fresh orchard fruits on the nose. Plenty more glassy, pure apple and pear, a hint of softer apricot and a kick of alcohol in the finish. Quite good.

d'Arenberg (Australia) "White Ochre" 1999, £4.99
Soft, light, summery peach fruit on the nose and into the palate, then the mouth fills with ripe, tangy lime flavour. Very easy to drink style.

Merryvale (California) "Starmont" Chardonnay 1997, £12.99
This has a straw/gold colour. Fresh nose with a sheen of sweet vanilla over plenty of ripe tropical aromas of pineapple and even banana. The palate is medium-full and the fruit is luscious, rich and creamy. Balanced though, with enough appley acidity in the finish to keep it sharp. Good.

Merryvale (California) Reserve Chardonnay 1997, £18.99
Straw/gold. The nose is quite lean at first, with suggestions of melon, peach and citrus. Some toasty oak and creaminess too, but this is very tight at present. Crisp and elegant fruit on the palate, though a nice quality of spice-infused oak shows up in the finish. This is a restrained style that has very good balance and should probably improve with a few more years in bottle.

Merryvale (California) "Silhouette" Chardonnay 1997, £28.99
Deeper golden colour. Big, very impressive nose with deep, burnt, toasty aromas of charry oak and coffee. The palate shows lovely restraint again though, with a finely-wrought quality of orchard and citrus fruits, hints of greengage. Pure and intense, there's a steeliness at the core of this wine, though a butterscotch richness pads out the mid-palate and the long finish reveals plenty of sweet oak and orangey acidity. Very well-balanced and another that would repay cellaring. Very good indeed.

Kendermann (Germany) Dry Riesling 1999, £3.99
Cool, light and lemon-fresh nose with a little overlay of sweeter, almost tropical lushness. These really show up in the finish, resulting in a crowd-pleasing Riesling that adds guava and ripe melon to citrus freshness. Lovely.

Kendermann (Germany) Limited Release Dry Riesling 1999, £6.99
Not sure just how limited this is, but I'd rush out and try a bottle soon if you think you'd like the style. Similar profile to the regular cuvée, but adds a very luscious mouthfeel and bags more buttery, creamy pineapple fruit on the palate. Very good indeed.

Von Kesselstatt (Germany, M-S-R) Josefshöffer Riesling Kabinett 1998, £7.39
Lovely mineral and slate aromas with clean apple fruit. On the palate quite lush with a fine, sweet edge to peachy fruit and a good finish. Good.

Wine Estate Wittmann (Germany, Rheinhessen) Westhofner Morstein Riesling Spätlese 1998, £6.99
Dry salt and mineral tangyness on the nose with refined notes of apricot and apple. Palate is soft and sweet, quite rich and full-bodied with good balance.

Wine Estate Messmer (Germany, Pfalz) Burrweiller Schlossgarten Riesling Kabinett 1998, £6.49
This has lovely nose of tropical fruit and just hints of herbaceousness. It has terrifically sweet peaches and cream flavours on the palate and finishes off-dry with gentle acidity and great purity. Very good.

Wine Estate Reichstrat Von Buhl (Germany, Pfalz) "Armand" Riesling Kabinett 1998, £6.49
Lovely nose of minerals and peach, limes and crunchy apple. On the palate a sweet attack with lots of sherbetty sweetness and medium to full body. Finishes with a sour green apple acidity that adds lots of interest. Very good. An old favourite still performing well.

Wine Estate Reichstrat Von Buhl (Germany, Pfalz) Forester Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese 1998, £9.49
Another wine I've really enjoyed in previous vintages. Racy on the nose. Though there's lots of rich pineapple fruit with a honeyed peachy sweetness, it is also shot through with minerality. The palate is loaded with glycerin richness and an untempered sweetness of fruit that is very pure and dense. Acidity is pushed into the background but there's plenty there to add sharpness. Lovely stuff.

Wine Estate Reichstrat Von Buhl (Germany, Pfalz) Forester Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese 1998, £12.99
There's a real smoky, slatey quality on the nose here of gravel and minerals. There are exotic fruit notes intermingled with spice and toffee. Gorgeous. The palate is quite generous and mellow with honeyed apple and nectarine fruit and real silkiness. Rich and sweet, it is balanced by acidity and again a core of steely minerality amongst the super ripeness. Excellent.

Radford Dale (South Africa) Chardonnay 1999, £8.99
I bumped into Ben Radford, who was profiled a year or so back on the Wine Pages. Still making wines for Longridge Estate, he was also showing his new Chardonnay and Shiraz made under the Radford Dale label. This has loads of charry French oak on the nose, plenty of coffee and tobacco layered over cool, classy apple and melon fruit. Good weight on the palate with spicy undertones of concentrated, buttery peach and lemon fruit and more citrus acidity freshening the finish. Good length. Very good.

Maculan (Italy) Dindarello 1997, £6.99 per 37.5cl
Another wine I've really enjoyd in the past, this has a beautiful honeyed, toasty sweetness on the nose with loads of lucious nectarine, orange and fig fruit. There are little floral highlights and a nuttiness too. Rich and full on the palate, that weight of fruit is off-set by decent acidity into a long, rich finish. Very good.

Red wines

Radford Dale (South Africa) Shiraz 1999, £9.49
Tiny production here (three barrels only) so act quickly if you fancy trying the wine. This is s very rich, concentrated, ripe Shiraz. There's a jammy core of blackberry fruit that is densely packed and a real warmth of rich earth and berries. These dominate on the palate and the wine is quite complex with layers of fruit and long finish. Very good.

Merryvale (California) Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, £21.99
Dark, dark purple/black colour. Nose of leafy blackcurrant. This has very good definition with focused, ripe blackcurrant fruit on the palate that is tight and creamy with a dusty tannic quality and very good length, where subtle smoke and spice oakiness adds depth. Very good.

Merryvale (California) Reserve Merlot 1997, £21.99
This deeply coloured wine has a pleasantly earthy, almost dank edge on the nose to plummy, dark fruit and little herbal nuances. It is slightly austere at present, the palate is gripped by steely tannins and only with some aeration does a creaminess of berry and plum fruit emerge. Really quite classy this, a riper fruitiness is in there and the finish is long with spicy vanillin notes wrapping around the fruit. Very good.

Merryvale (California) "Profile" 1996, £38.00
A Bordeaux blend, 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. This deep purple/black wine has a terrific seemless quality on the nose with plush black fruit and cedar and tobacco warmth leading on to a creamy-textured palate. The fruit is layered and dense with berries, blackcurrant and sweetness of charry oak. There's a nice damson bittersweet quality and tannins are ripe and supple. Balance is very good. This should cellar well. Excellent.