The Ely Big Tasting is always a treat, as their CHQ Brasserie hosts around a dozen suppliers showcasing their wines, both those already listed by Ely and those which might be added soon. Choosing a small number of favourites is nigh on impossible, so instead I have selected five which are great to drink AND taste somewhat different from what you might expect.
I first tasted this at Ely in a mini varietal tasting back in 2014 and it was the first time that I found an almost dry version of Pinot Gris that I liked. It has the richness typical of the variety and lots of flavour but with minerality instead of sweetness. It was also one of the first quality Slovenian wines I tasted – it turns out that Verus are one of the best producers in the country, so a great place to start.
I like Gewurztraminer as a grape, though I am very fussy about which ones. Alsace is where it is most at home, and there it tends to be off-dry or sweeter with exotic notes of lychee and ginger. Without any sweetness I tend to find it lacking, somewhat. I tried this superlative dry example from South Africa blind, though straight after the (also excellent) Paul Cluver Riesling; the minerality and vivaciousness with some fruit sweetness made me think it was also Riesling, perhaps in a slightly sweeter style. Trying it again, I found the trademark floral and lychee notes, but in a restrained and harmonious role. My rule for Gewurz has been well and truly broken!
Chardonnay has been in and out of fashion like some twisty-turny thing, but the main change has been a marked customer preference for less oak. This lovely example from South West France is make without any oak at all, but still manages to have a bit of body and texture – it could still work well with roast chicken and pasta, as well as white fish. The Côtes de Gascogne is a region well known for indigenous blends, but this shows that it can make good Chardonnay too. Great value for money, even before the reduction.
Pascal from Le Caveau is an enthusiastic supporter of organic, biodynamic and natural wines (for more information see this article on real wine by Suzi Redmond), and indeed stocks many of these wines. This example is quite a conundrum – it’s a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire valley but the nose and palate are much more determined by the particular wild yeast native to the vineyard than the grape variety. It’s fresh, yet gentle, and at only 11.5% alcohol makes a perfect lunchtime wine.
This wine was an amazing surprise, and probably my favourite of the whole event. Its unique flavour profiles come from several influences – the volcanic soils of the Canary Islands, the unusual grapes (90% Listan Blanco, 6% Pedro Ximenez, 4% Vidueno) and the special trellis system (after which the wine is named) with vine cordons plaited together. My list of descriptors for this wine included: nutty, smoky, toasty, citrus, fresh, grippy, yeasty… It’s such a special wine that every wine enthusiast ought to try!
Frankie caught the wine bug living in France in the 90s and has been sharing his love of wine ever since. He also writes for his own blog Frankly Wines, Glass Of Bubbly magazine and he runs private wine tasting events.