When you have been in an industry for a few years you certainly get to find out who the characters are, those to know, those to stay clear of, ones who will make you laugh, those who will educate, some who are forever serious and then sometimes even romance blossoms just like any other business sector out there really I suppose. I am not naming any people of course who the above descriptions have hit the nail on the head as such.
Tasting events are very similar to be honest, we know in our minds after a time that some are ‘if you have time to go to and nothing else on‘ in your diary whereas other’s are quite simply set in permanent marker and everything else evolves round those few select dates.
So, where does the Champagne Bureau UK tasting fit in?
Many will know that for 2017 the event was actually going to be dismissed and though many suggestions and rumours floated round as to why, enough negative murmurs were stirring that a sudden reinstatement took place. As to why the decision of skipping the annual Champagne tasting was arrived at, maybe it was some kind of clever PR stunt, but the Champagne Bureau decided to hold the tasting after all and everything was more or less back to normal, all calm at sea as such. Is that a compliment to the Champagne Bureau that such as fuss was made on them not holding their event, possibly I suppose in my mind, but I along with many others did feel that this years event was somewhat less attended than recent years, that calm at sea had resulted in not many waves. Was that a stand by some wine professionals against Champagne Bureau (I have been to the last 4 to compare to), or was it change of location / style and approach?
I have been saying this for a few years so I was pleased in my own way of the attitude of the Champagne Bureau in differing their approach of who to invite and the atmosphere for their Champagne tasting. We must remember that today there are both different agendas for those exhibiting and those doing the tasting. What do you mean you ask me?
Today those tasting can have a whole host of reasons to be doing so such as:
- Educate themselves on a wine region.
- Expand their knowledge of wines within that region.
- Arrive specifically to taste one or two rarities not yet in their tasting notes.
- To network with others in the industry.
- To meet the wine makers.
- To review wines for Vivino.
- To cover an editorial piece for a website / blog / magazine.
- To look for new wines to add to their wine menu.
- To build their image database of wine labels.
- To have a jolly good afternoon tasting £10,000’s worth of wines dare I say.
We must appreciate each and every person, within reason of course, who wishes to attend tasting events and I would say that even someone in another business sector ie interior designing, fashion, travel and more really needs to be given the right to the exposure of wines and those making / selling the wines because for me wines, especially bubbly, is very much a lifestyle / luxury / aspiration product. We must also add to that the fast growth of the internet and especially social media in that some attendees may not be past authors of wine books, have an MW or WSET after their name nor even work in the world of wine, but they may be standing there with 10,000’s if not 100,000’s of following / connections / subscribers / members etc that can add real value in PR / communications / marketing for a wine label.
Photo: Michel Drappier and Lisa Palmer with their copies of the Glass of Bubbly magazine they featured in.
Champagne on show at the tasting:
As the norm, many of the usual suspects were on show from the Lanson’s to the Veuve Clicquots, Ruinarts to the Pommery, brut, rosé in most cases added by their latest vintages and choice of blanc de blancs and premier crus etc. There were a few wine merchants too showing the Champagnes on their portfolios and also a few grower labels were present. If you know, as I do, that you need to ask if stands are carrying any special releases (usually hidden under the table or in the big bins behind them full of ice) then you will also get to taste one or two rare labels also.
I was hoping for a more detailed tasting notebook, something which I could write my notes next to each and every wine on show to add to the notes I take for Vivino online, but the book was very brief with no real attention or time commitment added to it – This of course certainly not a cost saving exercise with the millions of euros that the Champagne Bureau worldwide has to put towards marketing. Out of all the comments I heard, most negatives were towards the tasting booklet and lack of detail, info on the wine makers, contact details for wine makers, each and every wine should be listed with space to write notes.
The venue, Central Saint Martins, 1 Granary Square NC1 in London was good, though some stands were a little bit spoilt with coffee / toast / cake smells floating around cause of cafe / restaurants in very close proximity. It was a good spacious venue and not once did I get interrupted due to lack of space tasting the wines in the centre free pour area or have to queue to taste at a stand. I would say a better venue overall than 1 George Street in Westminster, better in atmosphere, more modern and current over the highly used and very traditional and quite restrictive location they have had for the previous two years. It is hard to get the perfect venue unless you build it yourself based totally on the most popular recommendations, but hey, who has the finance for that ~ Champagne Bureau maybe soon?
Without doubt, for London, the best dedicated show for Champagne and only Champagne, plenty of choice, variations, people and more and it is a show always fixed in to my diary and should be attended by anyone wanting to further their knowledge in tasting Champagne.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine tasting is on the agenda again on April 24th at Le Meridien Piccadilly Hotel in London by Glass of Bubbly – Claim your press and trade passes here.
Anyway, I hope mine was a fair and educational review of this years Champagne Bureau tasting in London and finally… Signing out with a #Brexit glass of bubbly from the many enjoyed on the day… Christopher Walkey.