With the summer nearly over (we're sad too) and that back-to-school feeling that pervades the turn of the season, portfolio tastings are in full swing. There isn’t a day we aren’t frantically nosing and spitting wine samples.
In an industry that is seldom prone to innovation, Bibendum’s Not Another Bl**dy Tasting held last Monday at London’s Steel Yard Nightclub, felt fresh like a morning sea breeze.
Just a night out
The timing was the first element that set the tasting apart. The event started when most portfolio tastings end (5.00pm) and ran well into the evening. With pop-up bars spread across the whole venue, the tasting had an unusual ‘night out’ vibe.
‘We really wanted to go back to hosting an event that encapsulated the fun-loving spirit of Bibendum,’ the company's chief executive officer Michael Saunders told Imbibe. ‘Putting on a less formal tasting where customers and producers can enjoy wines, spirits and beers, but also socialise in a relaxed and fun environment seemed like the perfect way to do that.’
The Did Someone say Aperitivo bar served beer, spirits, sherry, saké, vermouth and bubbles, including the tank-method English sparkling wine Fitz. There was also a Pudding Bar, serving all things sweet, and a space for the no and low category.
The wine selection
Wine had two dedicated areas, one with a by-the-glass offer and one featuring a selection of labels whose producers where all present to pour and talk through their creations.
‘Tasting a large number of wines can often be overwhelming’ – yes, it always is – ‘so we really wanted to show a select number of wines that reflect trends and what our customer base is looking for,’ explained Saunders. ‘For this event, we really wanted to show our customers a good mix of wines, at different price points and varying styles.’
Admittedly, the by-the-glass bar stretched the limits of what can be described as such, with top wines bordering £30 ex-VAT. But overall quality was pretty good across all prices levels: the 2018 Tsantali Agioritiko Abaton White (£13.86 – note that it’s not Agiorgitiko) turned out to be a brilliant new addition to the list, while the 2017 Saumur Champigny from Domaine Dubois (£16.80) showed the great value that Loire reds can offer to any wine list.
The selection of producers in the larger Crushed Grapes not Dreams section of the tasting was limited yet wide-ranging enough to feature a wide array of styles and countries, giving the attendees a clear idea of what to expect from the rest of the portfolio.
The 2017 Askos Verdeca from Puglia’s Fattoria Li Veli was gutsy and indulgent, while Weil’s 2017 Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Trocken GG was mineral and restrained.
There was room for some wacky stuff too, like the 2018 Tres Miradas, a dry Pedro Ximénez from Montilla-Moriles’ Bodegas Alvear. Some skin contact gives the wine a touch of tannin while the formation of flor during maturation lends the nose some fino-like acetaldehydes notes.
As for the reds, the 2016 Creation Pinot Noir Reserve really stood out for its excellent tannic structure while the 10yo Tawny Port from Quinta do Vallado was as bewitching as expected.
Nowhere were the attendees left on their own, with staff and producers always available to talk extensively over the pours.
‘Wine, and the hospitality industry more generally, is all about personality and storytelling,’ explained Saunders. ‘With producers behind and around the tables, customers were able to really immerse themselves in the stories behind the wines, spirits and beers.’
As people’s drinking becomes more and more experiential, and a wine’s story more and more significant when it comes to standing out on a list, this social element of the tasting really made Not Another Bl**dy a winning event.