First published in Harpers Wine & Spirit February 2011
If you prefer your wine tastings all hushed tones, white walls and good lighting, then Bibendum’s Annual Tasting was not for you. At the entrance you were handed a fortune cookie, while standing under a chandelier made of empty wine bottles, and it became clear this was the wine world according to Bibendum.
Never knowingly under-marketed, the pop-up theme, based on pop-up restaurants, showed this company was on-trend with the on-trade. To say there was a good turn out would be an understatement: this was manic to the point of carnivalesque.
Each room in The Brewery featured a theme. Upstairs, it was local market: bric-a-brac, porcelain puppies and old mobile phones separated out slightly dazed winemakers on the stands. Downstairs, the spirits section was bathed in fluorescent blue light like a nightclub, which must have had some tasting purists choking on their XO. One of the winemakers in the Australian Room yelled across to me as if we were in a bar, “Yeah it’s pretty fun and manic but it’s pretty hard to taste.”
But was this annual tasting just about tasting wine? No. This is Bibendum. It’s not just about wine it is also about the people in the wine trade. The enthusiasm of the staff and the creative execution spilled over to the young crowd. Was it the best technical conditions for tasting wine? No. Was it the best conceived, and executed, wine event? Yes. Was it the most fun? Definitely, yes.
At these party-noise levels, Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (£25.03) whispered and made me want to lean in to listen. Pure, clear ruby Sangiovese with very elegant, refined tannins.
Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2009 (£14.49) is a highly-crafted Beaujolais from organic whole-bunch pressed grapes. An incredible depth of flavour with a silky palate.
Godello Adega a Coroa 2009 (£10.32) is an exciting new wine, with very bright, tropical fruit and acidic wit as if it is Verdelho’s more sophisticated older sister.