The Bunch – Press tasting 2011

by Charles Lea

This week L&S took part in a press tasting jointly with the 5 other members of The Bunch. Amongst other things it was a good moment to launch the slightly made-over Bunch logo.

We started with a sub-£10 group tasting to show what good wines we can find at the lower end of the price range of ‘fine wine’ .

After that each merchant showed six wines and, for a bit of fun, two vintages of an ‘icon’ wine. For the icon wine L&S showed the soon to be released 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape from Domaine de la Mordorée, which we have been importing almost since its first vintage, and the 2000 vintage of the same wine (sadly our last bottles from the depths of the company reserves), which Joe Wadsack enthusastically exclaimed to be ‘the best wine in the room so far’ when he got to it, but he was also mightily impressed by the value offered by the 2009. If you have some of the 2000 it is time to think about drinking it.

The tasting was followed by a Q&A session which we hoped would get some of the attending journalists to ask questions whch would shed some light on where the trade is heading faced with the relentless drive to dumb wine down to a question of whether Lidl’s cheap plonk is cheaper than Asda’s cheap plonk. Indeed one of the questions (from Tamlyn Currin, of was ‘to what extent, and how, can Independent Wine Merchants persuade customers away from supermarket wine?’, to which the response was really ‘to the extent that we exist at all’, and the forum revolved around this and the nobbly question that Decanter’s editor Guy Woodward has recently raised elsewhere “why won’t the British take wine more seriously”, and after the flak he received as a result. He’s is right of course, why are you not a car snob if you don’t aspire to driving anything better than(/different to) a Nissan Micra, but always a wine snob if you suggest for aspiring to drinking a better wine?

Guy Woodward also questioned “the value of merchants’ tasting notes & verdicts – how useful are they and to what extent are they objective?”. We all bridled slightly at the idea that our tasting notes might not be taken as being gospel. Stephen Brook observed that he had noticed my way of saying, during the primeur campaigns, that ‘this is not my style , but if this is a style you like go for it’. We as merchants know that there are people who like some extremes of style that we do not, but we would still prefer they bought it from us.

Jason Yapp, backed up by this year’s chairman Adam Brett-Smith of Corneys felt strongly that the merchants have every right to have their tasting notes taken seriously (at least if they don’t relentlessly ‘big-up’ every single wine they sell as being the best ever), as the merchants are, in contrast to the journalists and third-party commentators (who may also have conflicts of interest in the form of potential advertising or competition-entry revenue) the ones who really do have to put their money where their mouth is.

All in all a fun tasting, which elicited some good responses:-

“…such fabulous wines. It has to be one of the best tastings of the year…” Peter Richards
“Best wine tasting for a while; The Bunch….” Guy Woodward
“Thanks for the Great Tasting” – Juel Mahoney
“Brilliant Tasting” – Joe Wadsack