Dorset Wine Festival 2018
In the sophmore year of this glorious event, the reception was as warm as the record breaking summer weather. The seemingly effortless beauty of the 10 Castle Street gardens was a buzz of wine, art and even a big screen to show the football for the great many fans who enjoyed watching the game on the hot Saturday afternoon.
The entrance to the festival was a charming marquee housing a pop-up version of our shop. It was a beautifully laid out space that, with the heat and décor, felt like an elegant safari camp adorned with a reception desk, comfortable seating, art and cases upon cases of wine for people to purchase as they were leaving the event.There was a constant stream of activities throughout the day, including expert talks on a range of topics from “getting started in tasting wine” from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, to South African winemakers panels led by Oz Clarke and featuring winemakers from Franschhoek discussing a great many aspects of the current industry. Beyond that, there were art exhibitions from the likes of Ambassadeur Art who’s range included everything from fine art to graffiti and tattoo artists. Edgar Lizarazu was stood painting a beautiful woman using tasting glasses of red wine as his palette. Quite diverse was the show of art and included a solid blue statue of a dog wearing an Iron Man helmet. Creative and profound.
One challenge, that we couldn’t have predicted based on the famously fickle nature of English weather, was keeping the red wines to a palatable temperature in the baking sun. The marquees kept shade over the presentation tables, and the whites and sparklers were definitely favourites as they provided the most refreshment. This isn’t to say that the reds weren’t showing well, but it was more difficult to keep them at proper service temperatures. We overcame this challenge and many people were able to try some cracking drops of wines that they may not have known before. The wines were pretty cool even though the weather was not.
English Oak Vineyards, from Lytchett Matravers near Poole, was probably my top pick for perfect show at the presenters tables. I couldn’t imagine a better setting in which to try the full range of these expertly precise and vastly interesting and different expressions of sparklers from the Purbeck region of Dorset. Each of the four wines showing was presented with a bit of a nibble to showcase the varied features of the particular wine. From the supercrisp and mineral San Gabriel Blanc de Blanc to the meaty and terra firmatious Wainscot Blanc de Noir, the profound individuality of each wines’ character hit with the power and purity of Freddy Mercury’s belted choruses into the warm garden air.
There was a constant stream of informative talks under the beautiful open air tent in the center of the grounds. It was lovely to see so many people gather who were truly interested in wine and hearing about it from the mouths of professionals in their respective fields. There were educators, producers, writers, brand ambassadors, and even some who’ve done it all in the mix.
It was lovely and fascinating to see so many fantastic Franschhoek producers out for our Festival. With the likes of Black Elephant, Môreson, and Haut Espoir all showing some top South African style, it was an unassailable testament to this relatively under-recognised region. My eyes were opened even further to the possibilities of fine winemaking here. The quality that showed from each house was inspired, inspiring and, needless to say, impressive.
I found Oz Clarke particularly fascinating and approachable. Floating around the grounds offering opinions and education to all. He was a real treat to talk to and seemed to have quite a bit of time for me. I was humbled by his presence and inspired by his kind words about the potential for my ideas. With his great advice and witty repartee, our interactions were the pinnacle of the festival for little ol’ me.
Dan and I were slated to have an hour long question and answer session on both afternoons, which, with its limited attendance, gave us a chance to have a little sit down informal chat with the likes of Oz Clarke and a few guests who popped by.
Steven Spurrier presented himself as the quintessential Englishman in the industry. His talk on his involvement in the Judgement of Paris in 1976 was enthralling. The influence that this had on the world of wine is undeniable and profound and it was lovely to be able to hear about it straight from the mouth of the icon himself. His Bride Valley sparkling wines were crisp and refreshing and a testament to the beginnings of the budding English Sparkling wine industry. He was totally old-school and it was pretty neat to hear his perspective on the world of wine that he no doubt helped to shape.
Pol Roger ran a masterclass on their house that was wonderfully dense with information. Kieran, the representative of the house, was a delight to listen to and covered a great deal of the great history of Pol, the production methods, how it has changed over time and why, its inseperable involvement in British culture and included a great many anecdotes that were sure to entertain. Throughout the talk, we tasted the Non-Vintage ‘White Foil,’ the 2009 vintage and the 2006 Sir Winston Churchill, which was mind-blowingly refined, opulent and energizing.
The eats on offer were everything from wood fired pizzas from the good people at Pizza with Love to Ice-cream from Chilled. There was certainly something for everyone even if you wanted some sticky ribs and a coffee, we had it there. The big screen was set up for the World cup right at the end of the birch lined spattering of picnic tables. It was the perfect spot to catch a bit of shade and a beer from the Gritchie Gun Bus while enjoying a bite to eat and while watching the English victory over the Swedes in the quarterfinal. While it didn’t come home (this year) a sense of hope and celebration was thick in the air.
After the main festivities had fizzled out on Saturday, exhibitors and guests joined each other at a long table beneath a birch tree grove for a banquet dinner that was hosted by the affable Oz Clarke. A healthy and eclectic selection of the wines (tasty leftovers from the presentation tables from the day) were present for an vast spectrum of pairable goodies that would delight even the most picky palates. Apparently it turned into quite the blowout, but sadly, I wasn’t able to stick around. If you want details on that, you’ll have to ask Dan… he might even tell you all about the happening.
The whole festival was quite an experience. We had some laughs, some challenges and definitely learned some lessons that will guarantee an even better show next year! With it in our wake, we muddle on with our day to day. But now, we’ve got a lot more of the exciting wines that were being shown and you’ve had the opportunity to taste them first. And as always we’ve got more and more new stuff all the time so, keep your eyes out and palates ready for more mouthwatering amusements from us good folks at Museum Wines. Hooray!
Drink well and better,
J Corey Evans