Urged on as always by the Hippo, I attended this event; a curious mix of suppliers ranging from major supermarkets to little independents. Two large rooms and no obvious format, save for a large Portuguese presence in one corner. While I tasted nothing that bowled me over, there were pleasant but heftily priced Pinots Noirs: Louis Latour's Beaunes 1er Cru 'Vignes Franches' '05 was a little closed and for £36 I expect more fruit. Laithwaites' Rockburn '07 NZ was drinkable but not for me at £18, although I was tempted by their £10 Trapiche Broquel '08 Torrontes. Bibendum too offered an NZ PN; their Wither Hills [which sounds like a piece of rhetoric, as if the place is about to be flattened] '08 Wairau Valley was oddly hot, and at £16 failed to excite any more than Robert Mondavi's similarly priced '07 Napa Valley PN. Ah, now this was more like it: Oregon Wine Board had four Pinots, and for my money the delicious A to Z 2006 at £15.25 had far more appeal than their pricier offerings although not enough to bring out the chequebook.
But what of the ViniPortugal contingent? There was a huge display pushing something pink called Pink Elephant, which was (to be honest) surprisingly drinkable and I'm not saying that just because they gave me a cute pen. Pleasingly dry and unpretentious at a fiver. Onwards if not necessarily upwards, the next stand had a backdrop of Cliff Richard. Gritting my teeth I admit that his Vida Nova '07 Rosé was acceptable, as was his Onda Nova '08 Verdelho - in fact I would buy the latter at half the asking price of £10. Some good stuff from Vinoteca: '08 Morgado de Perdigao was the best bone dry white and sensibly priced at £11. Their Filoco Reserva '07 at a quid more was interesting. Handford Wines had Quinta da Murta Classico '07 for £11.50; classy, minerally stuff.
Some people called Private Cellar had some non-claret from Bordeaux, including Chateau de Sours Rosé '08. I can't remember when I last tasted a really good uncomplicated fruit-driven French pink; this was one such and cracking value at £8. Their pink fizz Reserve de Sours NV for £10.75 was truly lovely; light and floral, it made me think of damask roses and redcurrants. Might have to get some of that. Yum.
Also French and yum was a charming Beaujolais, Chateau Prety Clos du Perpetuant '05 from the City Beverage Company. A delightful young man invited me to their annual tasting in two weeks' time: watch this space.
Leaving the best until last, as the basic premise of this tasting is to stock up your cellar ready for Christmas: some stonking good supermarket value. The Co-op had a Languedoc Viognier, Domaine St Gabriel '08 which displayed lovely aromatics at a remarkable £8. I bemoaned the lack of Co-ops in SE London but was told they have taken over Somerfield branches so I may be in luck.
Finally, Asda had a Cave de Roi Dagobert '07 Gewurtztraminer which while not the driest ever Gewurtz was rich, complex and a bargain at £7. Asda also featured [fanfare: ta-ta-ta-DA!!] from Wither Hills again, their Extra Special Pinot Noir '08 at £8.50. Lovely stuff which knocks spots off other PNs at twice the price and more (see above). Don't buy up all the stock before I get down to the Old Kent Road branch.
Dinah [Crispin Fruity is on holiday]