Austria Trip October 2017 by Aris Spaidiotis

November 23rd, 2017 by isabelle

After a few months of training, it was time for my first trip. And there is not a better place to start than Austria. Before I knew it, I was at Vienna Airport waiting for my colleagues Bénédicte and John to arrive.

We jumped into a car and headed to our first destination, the town of Krems in Lower Austria.


First stop Kremstal

Stadt Krems + Rainer Wess + Felsner

In the Stadt Krems cellar with Fritz Misbauer

After a brief walk in the steep vineyards surrounding the city we landed at the winery for a chat and tasting with Fritz Misbauer, the person who revived the fame of Stadt Krems. Pure and energetic wines. Perfect start of the day.

Tasting with Renate Felsner, Christina & Rainer Wess

Rainer Wess along with his daughter Christina have managed to produce wines of real class from both the Krems and Wachau areas.

Renate Felsner joined us that day as well with some lovely spicy Grüners and zesty Rieslings.









Schloss Gobelsburg – Kamptal

Schloss Gobeslburg

Moving to Kamptal for a visit at the famous Schloss Gobelsburg, a castle with history dated back at 1074 and run for many years from Cistercian monks. A modern era started on 1996, when Michael Moosbrugger took over the management both of the estate and the winery. Listening to him discussing about modern and traditional winemaking, is absolute fantastic.






Weingut Moric

Roland Velich in the Lutzmannsburg vineyard on the day of picking

After a long drive we reached the village of Lutzmannsburg where Roland Velich runs his Moric estate. World class Blaufränkisch here, where elegance meets balance. Tasting from the barrels (and not only) was one of the highlights of the trip. Roland gave us a tour in his famous Lutzmannsburg vineyard where harvest was taking place that day. Excellent quality of grapes as you can see.







Feiler Artinger

Kurt Feiler checking the progress of the botrytis.

Next stop, the famous town of Rust and Feiler-Artinger. Kurt kindly offered us a tour to his vineyards next to the lake Neusiedl where botrytis already had made its appearance (an important fungus giving the famous dessert wines of the town).







Georg Prieler

Pinot Blanc from 1998 to 2016!

Last stop of the day – Weingut Prieler. Top class Pinot Blanc and Blaufränkisch were poured in our glasses that evening. Thank you Georg for that lovely 1998 Pinot Blanc!!!






Brigitte & Gerhard Pittnauer

Last day in this lovely country and we are heading to the other side of the lake to meet Gerhard and his wife Brigitte. Biodynamic viticulture is strong in Austria, and one of the biggest supporters is Pittnauer. His selection comprises both conventional and natural wines, all made with excellent attention on details. His moto is ‘’I only make wines that I like to drink’’.







Tasting Line-up at Umathum

Last visit before we headed to the airport was Josef Umathum. Humble and very kind personality, but then he starts explaining about clonal selection of grapes and the research he is doing on that and you understand why his wines taste so delicious. Everything in his winery is a combination of tradition and modernism.

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Visiting Coume del Mas & Mas Cristine

May 15th, 2017 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

At the beginning of April we rounded up a few lucky customer-friends and headed down to the Deep South of France, to visit winemaker Philippe Gard at his estates, Coume del Mas & Mas Cristine, not far from the pretty town of Collioure in the Roussillon…

First stop – meeting Philippe at his Coume del Mas winery, nestled amongst spectacular sloping vineyards of old gnarly vines and an awful lot of schiste – the Precambrian type, I believe… 🙂


Panoramic View of Surrounding vineyards from Coume del Mas winery

Panoramic view of surrounding vineyards from Coume del Mas winery

There, amongst others, we tasted the exciting and soon-to-be-released 2016 vintages of white wine, “Folio” – a fantastically spicy barrel-fermented Grenache Gris – and from tank the red, “Schistes”, a concentrated, old-vine Grenache, with silky tannins and a beautiful mineral freshness.


Old-Vine Mourvedre clinging on to steep Schiste slopes

Old-vine Mourvedre  doing its best to cling on to those steep schiste slopes!

Dinner that evening was Chez Philippe, “à la bonne franquette” in his words – involving a spread of anchovies, local cheese, and Natalie’s delicious Tarte aux Poireaux. And of course accompanied by a great deal of tasting – including a vertical of the rich flagship red “Quadratur”, Banyuls Rouge Galateo 2015 and Quintessence 2014, and topped off with Philippe’s first ever Banyuls Grand Cru 2005!

Philippe Gard in his boutique winery at Coume del Mas

Philippe Gard in his boutique winery at Coume del Mas

After a night spent in Collioure’s Hôtel Les Templiers, (some of it in the hotel’s historic Bar des Peintres) the following morning we set off to explore the vineyards of sister estate, Mas Cristine, with more beautiful sea views looking down towards Banyuls-sur-Mer.


In the vineyards at Mas Cristine

A lesson on viticulture in the vineyards of Mas Cristine

It was at Mas Cristine’s new swanky winery, with its shop and sampling room, that we tasted through the range of wines made at the estate – Mas Cristine Blanc, Rosé and Rouge… and here again came the telltale signs of impressive winemaking – vibrancy of fruit, concentration accompanied by freshness, and those terroir notes of garrigue herbs and peppery spice… And it turned out that we had quite the surprise in store at lunch when Quadratur 2001 made a special appearance- the domaine’s first vintage.

Group Pic! High up amongst the Vineyards at Coume del Mas.

Group Pic! High up amongst the vineyards at Coume del Mas.

It’s so special to be able to soak up a little of the passion and energy that goes into making of wines of this standard, and on this trip, to get a better feel for just how special these Southern French creations are; wines with a real house-style – with silky tannins and creamy textures, and with that fantastic balance of freshness and concentration, elegance and authenticity.

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Schloss Gobelsburg 20th Anniversary

September 16th, 2016 by isabelle

bottlesEarlier this year Michael Moosbrugger celebrated his two decades at Schloss Gobelsburg with a special symposium devoted to the history of wine. Eminent presenters from around the wine world gave a range of  fascinating seminars – with tastings – on a range of venerable wines, from Georgia to Madeira.

This week, the celebrations continued in London, with a special tasting and dinner at 67 Pall Mall . It’s now 17 years since Lance first made a tentative a first shipment of wines from Austria, and Michael’s wines were on that first mixed pallet.  We’ve come a long way together since then but Schloss Gobelsburg continues to be one of our best-selling producers, and we greatly value the relationship which we have built up over the years. Out of the extensive range, Michael chose for this occasion to concentrate on a vertical tasting of Riesling from Ried Heiligenstein. We tasted six pairs starting with 2015, which has just been released and which will be arriving in a few weeks, and went all the way back to 1973, which is a vintage made by the monks who previously manged the winery. This was a fascinating presentation. Michael paired the wines by vintage conditions, and talked us through his thoughts as a winemaker on the evolution of his approach and how he has arrived at his current style. We’ve not shipped this particular cuvee for a few years, but we will definitely be bringing over some 2015 on our next shipment, and we will also see what we can get by way of older stock.


And here are Lance and Michael raising a toast with a glass of Blandy’s Vintage Malmsey!

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Clark Foyster Burgundy Tasting En Primeur 2014

February 16th, 2016 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

Our Burgundy En Primeur Tasting is always a big day in the CFW calendar, and this year was no exception, with our Burgundian producers arriving in from the French countryside to help us unveil the 2014s and many of our friends and loyal customers pre-registered and ready to get down to some serious tasting… This year, we were even equipped with a new photo presentation of a decade’s worth of Clark Foyster trips to Burgundy to play on 67 Pall Mall’s smart high-tech screen… a welcome and entertaining break from all the serious note-taking that was otherwise taking place!

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Clark Foyster Burgundy Tatsing 2014 En Primeur – 67 Pall Mall

Alongside the bright and pure young 2014s, we featured a number of older vintages from the different growers, of interest to our Sommelier friends and trade customers. It always makes such a difference to be joined by the producers themselves, who are willing and able to talk precisely about the exact vintage conditions and answer all the nitty-gritty questions we kept finding for them. Below, Florence and Simon Heresztyn-Mazzini of Gevrey Chambertin are in full swing stood behind their beautiful range of single vineyard Gevreys.

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Florence and Simon of Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini, Gevrey Chambertin

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Lance Foyster MW shown below, no doubt answering a keen customer question about hail, stems or barrel toasting..!

And what would the day be without our fair share of bright and jazzy shirts! Every tasting needs a colourful duo – Isabelle Clark with friend and customer, David Strange, looking quite the part below.

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Every Tasting needs at least a couple of wonderfully colourful shirts!

And after the day’s work was all over, it was time to head to The 10 Cases Wine Bar in Covent Garden to relax with the producers, and our customers and friends. Chris Sherwood, Tuggy Meyer and Lance Foyster musing over the day’s wines.

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Tuggy Meyer (Huntsworth Wine), Christopher Sherwood (Bottle Apostle) and Lance Foyster deep in contemplation about the day’s top picks.

Domaine Confuron-Gindre’s Grand Cru Echézeaux 2014, one of many bottles enthusiastically emptied over the course of evening in the approving company of the producers themselves.

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Domaine Confuron-Gindre Echézeaux, Grand Cru 2014

Miranda Fong from Bottle Apostle clearly a little surprised at the camera opportunity Isabelle couldn’t miss out on :-), either that or the last drop of Heresztyn-Mazzini’s Clos St Denis, Grand Cru 2014 had just been emptied!

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Miranda Fong (Bottle Apostle) with Lance Foyster MW

Group Photo! Empty plates – and bottles! – a very merry evening. And it is thanks to our much-valued French amis and producers; customers and friends that the day was made a success. Every reason to go home singing, and clapping, following the lead of the jovial Burgundians!

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Group Photo! The CFW Burgundy Tasting After Party!

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A Short Run-Down of our Burgundy Tasting Trip 2015

December 17th, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

Alma came back bright-eyed with enthusiasm for Spain after her mega 14 day trip (a top WSET prize, no less!) So I thought I’d show her where real fine wine is made, and she made her first serious wine trip to God’s back yard to see what all the fuss is about. Now she knows!

Lance Foyster MW

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Warm Autumn Sunshine over Chateau du Clos de Vougeot

Before we knew it November was upon us and it was time for the annual Clark Foyster trip to Burgundy – my first visit to see our Burgundian partners and friends in their homeland and to get to grips with vintage 2014 in time for our En Primeur offer in the New Year.

This year, the trip started with a visit to Domaine Gaston Ravaut in Ladoix. Monsieur Ravaut himself, shown below, turned out to be the most sprightly of sorts, and very kindly insisted on climbing up and down many ladders, hopping between precarious ledges and tricky steps in his cellar to collect the best samples for us. It will be exciting to present his wines for the first time in January.

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Monsieur Gaston Ravaut searching out the best of his Ladoix tank samples

It was then on to Marsannay, where the bright-eyed Cyril Audoin was excited to show us his new cellar, now almost complete, and the wines that go with it which are increasingly marked by his own, clean style. Florence and Simon of Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini, shown below, put on a terrific tasting for us in the Domaine cellar and it was fun to hear all about their new-found enthusiasm for Biodynamic winemaking, eating the best oeufs en meurette at La Rotisserie du Chambertin!

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A very jovial couple: Florence Heresztyn and Simon Mazzini

However, nothing, could have prepared us for the unveiling of Philippe Jouan’s brand new and state-of-the-art bottling machine in Morey St. Denis! His wines, as always, very friendly in their soft, appealing and forward style.

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Philippe Jouan and son stood proud beside the most modern piece of kit in the cellar!

The stop at Domaine François Bertheau in Chambolle Musigny is said to always be a real highlight. His cellar fully decorated for Halloween at the time, but the wines warm and generous, and anything but scary… The fabulous photo below, staged almost professionally in blue and red.

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At Domaine François Bertheau. Three Chaps and A Sign: in Navy and Red !

And of course no trip would be complete without Jean-Marie Fourrier’s detailed vintage report, seen in full swing below, which accompanied the tasting of his wonderfully pure and transparent wines. Real precision here. I was quite in awe.

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Tasting at Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier with Nigel Platts-Martin and Lance Foyster MW

Chez Claudine and François at Domaine Confuron-Gindre, it was great to be formerly introduced to son Edouard, a recent graduate of the Lycée Viticole. They have smart new tasting glasses but perhaps this won’t be the only thing that changes.

And at Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils, saved as the last appointment in the Côte de Nuits, we met Sébastien, looking increasingly at ease in his most enviable domaine.

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Tasting at Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils

Then down South to the white wine country of the Mâconnais to Domaine Sophie Cinier. Fine wines and great gastronomy at Fuissé’s new-ish restaurant, L’O des Vignes.

And all such merriment fits by some kind of miracle around the rather more delicate matter of the 2014 Clark Foyster allocation… which to be revealed in the New Year at our En Primeur Tasting in January.

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Clark Foyster Austria Trip 2015

August 26th, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

A visual snippet from the CF trip to Austria earlier this Summer – tasting, lunching, vineyard frolics and lots of fun.

After an early start at Heathrow and arrival into a Sunny Vienna, stop number one was at Manfred and Renate Felsner’s. Time to stretch our legs with a hike up a vineyard before an idyllic tasting and lunch under the shade of parasols. Whites were the focus here – spicy Grüners and zesty Rieslings- and our first schnitzel of the trip, homemade and delicious, with a particularly peppery herb salad I seem to remember.

Our First Tasting of the Trip at Weingut Felsner

First Tasting of the Trip at Weingut Felsner

Moving swiftly along from Kremstal into the Wachau, to visit the famous Hirtzberger Family – son and winemaker, Franz, greeted us at the winery door and off we hiked – again – up a very steep hill in what felt like a 40 degree heat – to the prized Singerriedel vineyard… Seamus Sharkey of Restaurant Story putting us all to shame sprinting up those amazingly steep slopes! 🙂 Look at that view, no wonder the wines made here, exuding their beautiful origins, are amongst the very finest of Austria!

Maybe the best view in Austria from Hirtzberger's Singerriedel

Maybe the best view in Austria from Hirtzberger’s Singerriedel

A tour of the winery and impressive wine library, and then into Hirtzberger’s swish tasting room to sample a world-class line up… Lance concentrating below against a backdrop of golden holiness.

Hirtxberger-  a gold adorned tasting, Lance watched over by the majestic statues

Hirtzberger – A gold adorned tasting

From the Wachau we moved to Kamptal, to the last visit of the day at the iconic Schloss Gobelsburg Estate where owner and winemaker, Michael Moosbrugger, showed us around his winery cellar which brimmed with monastic history. We tasted through the range, including our first reds of the trip, upstairs in a rather fancy function room, captivated by Michael’s detailed approach and explanations.

Climbing to heights of Schloss Gobelsburg

Climbing to the heights of Estate Schloss Gobelsburg

And what a joy not to have to rush away from the Gobelsburg paradise that evening! Dinner al fresco in their fairytale gardens, looked after by Michael (shown below) and his charming wife, Eva. Many courses; many wines! Older single vineyard wines flowing freely made for quite the evening. Riesling Gaisberg Alte Reben 97 sticks in my mind… as well as a magical moon shining above! So beautiful.

Fairytale dinner in the garden of Schloss Gobelsburg hosted by Michale Mossbrugger

Dinner in the fairytale gardens of Schloss Gobelsburg

Bright and early the next morning we were back in Kremstal, out exploring the vineyards of Rainer Wess and Stadt Krems. The smart and newly refurbished Stadt Krems winery was a super spot to sit down and taste through their wines. Fantastically ripe, spicy and energetic – Austrian whites in all their glory. Followed, of course, by more yummy schnitzel and traditional potato salad.

Stadt Krems and rainer Wess put a magnifierent line-up

Stadt Krems and Rainer Wess lay out a magnificent Austrian spread in Krems’ village winery

Before we knew it we were back on the bus and driving South to Burgenland. Our first stop in red wine country was at boutique winery – Moric – to get a feel for his internationally renowned Blaufränkisch Project. Tasting from barrel in the winery and a visit to the Lutzmannsburg plateau, looking across the blustery vineyard plane towards Hungary. Winemaker, Roland Velich, in the middle below in the blue shirt.

Amid the vines at plateu Lutzamnnsburg with Roland Velich of Morics, looking over inot Hungary

Group photo amongst the vines on the Lutzmannsburg plateau with winemaker Roland Velich of Moric

Our last visit that day was to Weingut Prieler, to meet the jovial Georg Prieler and his deep, fine Blaufränkisch wines and intense, weighty Pinot Blancs. A wine tasting at the family home soon turned into dinner at the region’s smart restaurant, Gut Purbach. An evening to remember with winemakers Georg Prieler and Kurt Feiler from Feiler-Artinger supplying plenty fun and amusement… and then there was the menu…

Dinner following visit at Weingut Prieler... I wonder what's on the menu!?

Dinner at Gut Purbach with Georg Prieler and Kurt Feiler

A fantastic, spicy fish soup was followed by horse and then… a bit more horse – all the horse! Horse steak, horse heart, horse testicles, presented very delicately as you can see below… Safe to say they like their horse in Austria!

.... Ah, I thought so - horse balls and hearts, that's what we are all expecting

All the horse on a plate!

It was the world-renowned sweet wines of Feiler-Artinger for breakfast the next morning, sat outside in the winery’s sunny garden in the town of Rust, surrounded by wonderful storks nesting on the rooftops above. Sat there with some delicious home-made pastries and some 1989 Soltaire Blaufränkisch, life was just wonderful.

Sweet wines from Feiler Artinger for breakfast - with home made sourcrout pasties! Delightful.

Sweet wines from Feiler Artinger for breakfast – with home made sourcrout pasties! Delightful.

From Rust we took a boat across the shallow Lake Neusiedl to meet Helmut Lang at Illmitz. Looking good below, guys – Alvis (Chitern Firehouse) rocking his tank-top, Seamus (Restaurant Story) looking the part in his Wines of Austria cap, and Peter (Spring) looking very smart as usual. Thanks too, Peter, for your great photos, some of which made it onto this post.

Such dudes.... crossing lake neised in style

Such dudes… crossing Lake Neusiedl in style!

Helmut, seen below in the black T shirt, drove us around in his authentic pick-up, through his dry, sandy vineyards of Pinot Noir on the banks of the Lake to a beautiful, shady spot shown below for a buffet lunch and a tasting of his prized Eisweins, BAs and TBAs. Hard to imagine in the Summer heat that day, that making Eiswein – and as good as his – was even possible!

Tasting the stickies of Helmut Land under the sahe of trees

Tasting the sweet wines of Helmut Lang under the shade of trees

Quite spoilt, we were delivered from the care of one winemaker to the next, and Josef Umathum collected us and took us to visit his vineyard terraces and taste his refreshing Blaufränkisch rosé under the mulberry trees amongst the vines. That evening it was a blind tasting which proved quite the test – flight after flight of Austrian varietals: Harszlevelu – Lindenblattriger, Traminer, Gelber & Roter… his Pinot Noir 2001 and Zweigelt Ried Hallebuhl 2007 amongst the top picks of the evening – which ended with a relaxing BBQ in the winery gardens (before the local pub…)

Strutures Blind tasting to keep us on our toes at Umathum

Tricky blind tasting to keep us on our toes at Weingut Umathum

The final morning: breaksfast fizz with birthday girl Brigitte Pittnauer, sipping Gerhard Pittnauer’s most recent creation in their sunny vineyards. Quite simply living the dream.

Celebrating Brigiites Pittnuer's birthday with Pitti's ;astes bubbly exereinment

Celebrating Brigitte Pittnauer’s birthday with Pitti’s latest bubbly creation

At Weingut Pittnauer, our last stop of the trip, we got a feel for the practices of biodynamic winemaking, tasting some of the best St Laurents in Austria from cask along with the components of his soon-to-be-unveiled oxidative white, “Mash Pitt”… watch out Vault Tastings! 😉

Cask samples at Pittnauer

Tasting St Laurent Rosenberg from barrel at Weingut Pittnauer

And then, that was it, back off to Vienna airport.

Breakfast in Burgenland – a final, concluding drink in South Kensington for some 😉 – and dinner back home. Quite the adventure.


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Mac Forbes in London

June 21st, 2015 by isabelle

Life is always  extra busy when we have winemakers in town.  If a producer is taking the time, expense and effort of coming to visit our customers and present their wines, then it’s important to make the most of the investment with a good programme of tastings, restaurant visits and maketing events in order to maximise the investment.  When someone comes from the other side of the world then the stakes are even higher. Last week was probably one of the packed winemaker visits we’ve ever put together. Consumer tastings at Sager & Wilde, Philglas and Swiggot, Bottle Apostle, Vinoteca, The Wine Society. On-trade customer visits to City Social, Pollen Street Social, Hibiscus, The Westbury, Barbecoa.  Off-trade visits to Fortnum and Mason, Highbury Vintners, Berry Brothers. Plus we managed to fit in a day at Gusbourne Estate in Kent with the sommelier team from Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner; we took advantage of comfortable train ride to Ashford to put on a tasting of Mac’s wines en route.

Mobile tasting

Mobile tasting


And despite all this, Lance and Mac managed to fit in a bit of speed shopping…


Team jackets

Team jackets

and  a bit of well-deserved R and R on the river in Richmond!

Mac and Mini Clark Foyster

Mac and Mini Clark Foyster


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Watch London go Wine Fair Crazy!

May 22nd, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

What an exciting winey week for London! First of all we were lucky enough to discover a quite staggering variety of natural, organic and biodynamic wines at The Artisan Wine Fair, RAW; and then the next day we were able to skip along to London’s 35th Wine Fair, immersing ourselves in all things wine, filtered neatly by region, importer and market position.


The Bunting comes out for London Wine Week!

Those fortunate enough to go along to both events may have been (like me) impressed by quite how different the two fairs were in their individual philosophy and approach. RAW, standing firmly for a flourishing alternative wine culture seemed to be backed by a real energy of enthusiasm and curiosity; while the London Wine Fair, a confident representation of a long- established British wine scene, appeared to cater efficiently and practically for all our trade needs.


RAW – The Artisan Wine Fair

Venturing East on Monday I trooped along a rainy Brick Lane to RAW, picking up my ticketed paper wrist-band, kind of like heading in to a nightclub or private view. Friendly staff and a helpful pretty catalogue greeted me at the door – we’ll have no stuffiness here thank you very much, just very high ceilings filled with positive enthusiasm! Winemakers explained in varying levels of English what they hoped their creations expressed, how they chose to work with the land and manage their grapes. Orange wines, biodynamic wines, terrior wines, cult wines, bright and shiny wines, more cloudy wines – it was a varied lot – some, so unfamiliar to taste that I didn’t quite know what to do; others more reassuring, speaking a language I could more easily understand. There were many excellent discoveries – the Sangiovese of Podere Della Bruciata and the old vine Carignan – Grenache blends of Domaine Grand Guilhem in particular – though it was all of interest, as well as very helpful for the practice of open-minded-wine-tasting.


The London Wine Fair 2015

And so then the next day I headed West, to the LWF at Olympia – no wrist band, instead a more straight-talking scan of my personalised bar code that was hung round my neck, and not one but six professional tasting booklets. Bright promotional banners visible from all directions defined the different commercial units, a sign of the event’s hefty marketing budget. Here, things got serious – wines laid out by region, by country, by importer. The big guys, mainly downstairs, showcasing their portfolios to eager potential customers – a great opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the market and appreciate the dynamism of wine in London. The little guys had room too – upstairs in an animated Esoterica section specialist importers operated in a more relaxed, table-top environment; with the finer wines of the event gathered nearby in the more exclusive View Tastings.


So yes, a very different experience to be had at our two lovely fairs –  just as well really, as it shows the different ways in which wine can be celebrated, expressed, understood, consumed… It also highlights that both philosophies can exist successfully together in the same city, during the same week, and interestingly, attract a lot of the same people – I bumped into many of the same friends and colleagues on both days! Which is no surprise given that both provided the chance to better understand our fantastically immense world of wine; to talk to the producers; to keep our curiosity and passion alive and to remain in tune with how the market is changing.

The existence of a thriving British wine trade, as shown in all of its traditional glory at the London Wine Fair, offers a foundation on which more alternative movements and ideas can be built. Maybe in future, though, we might see more of a convergence, with East and West coming together to meet somewhere in the middle, somewhere more central..! Here in London, where business and the market too often preside, RAW offers a fresh vibrancy and some much welcomed soul; yet without the heritage laid out by 35 years of the London Wine Fair, RAW may well have found it tricky to come into its successful being in the first place. I certainly felt that I benefited from both, it was just rather intruiging that I needed to travel to very different locations on different days to get the holistic London Wine Week experience that I was after.

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Good manners at Trade Tastings

April 20th, 2015 by isabelle

We’ve now reached the end of the trade tastings season and it’s time to take stock and review the success, or otherwise, of our recent efforts to win friends and influence people.  We’ve certainly made a lot of new friends and we seemed to have influenced  at least some of them to open new accounts with us, or to try new wines from the range.  So far so good.

It does take a lot of time, effort, money and tasting samples  to put on tastings, though, and it’s therefore quite important to be sure that all this is carefully targetted so that we get the maximum return on our hefty investment.  We want people to come along, but we want them to be the ‘right’ people.  There’s not much benefit to us in pouring lots of expensive samples  for people who are not buyers and who are have really only turned up because they want to try and sell us advertising space or new wines. This is even more important if we’ve asked wine growers to come over to support an event.  They’ve shelled out for flights and accommodation, so we really need to justify their expenses by ensuring that they are showing their wines to potential customers rather than wine club organisers.  There are definitely some visitors who are more welcome than others, though we are, of course, far too polite ever to let this show…

I’ve already seen a certain ‘Director of X Hotel’ at at least four events in the past few months. He turns up regularly at wine trade tastings and registers on the door with business cards which look the part, but which are more than a little dodgy. He then works his way round the room sipping quietly but not taking any notes. He is obviously well used to being invited to leave and leaves quietly and discreetly when accosted. However, being regularly chucked out of events doesn’t seem to bother him greatly as he still turns up, smelling faintly but distinctly tramp-like if you get too close…

Also less welcome are those who turn up uninvited and register on the door, claiming to be wine writers who are members of The Press Club.  Surprisingly enough, the next time you come across them they are no longer members of the press, but are now directors of luxury goods companies…And when you politely ask them when you will be able to the read the extensive review of your expensive Burgundies, they mutter something incoherent and quickly move off to another table.

Generally, we prefer to pour for visitors so we can have a chat and get some feedback while they are taking notes. It’s also easier to control how many bottles we get through as it’s always a bit of a shame to see most of a pour going straight into the spitton because it was too generous. It’s generally considered polite to acknowledge the person who is pouring for you rather than just hold outing your glass while chatting with your mate.

And while we’re on the subject of freeloaders, we’re not terribly keen on people whose first question at a tasting is ‘where’s the food?’ or those who hover expectantly at closing time waiting to pick up any open bottles. Actually, we quite like to take some of these home ourselves after a long and tiring day or else we prefer to give these to our regular  customers. Please don’t forget that the clearing up process often needs to be very quick, so the end of the tasting is not an invitation to relax and have a leisurely chat.  Venues often set very strict deadlines for clearing up and are quick to charge significant penalties for late finishes.

Every now and then we get a follow up call after a tasting from someone requesting samples. Here’s a typical recent example.

Hi there, I tasting xxx at the recent tasting and it was fantastic. I’m writing a piece about the wines I tasted and I wonder if you could send me a sample?

Me: Er, didn’t you make notes at the tasting?

Well, yes, I did! But I made so many notes that they’re quite hard to read and it would be really helpful to taste it again to reresh my memory as I write my article.

Me: Well maybe you could you let me know where your piece is going to be published?

Well, it’s actually my blog but I do get a lot of readers.

Me: That’s great, but actually we don’t send out free samples.

Oh. OK then. Bye.

Probably the very worst behaviour of all is stealing glasses from tastings.  I couldn’t quite believe that people would really do this, but I’ve now seen this happen twice at tastings where the organisers made a big effort to source quality glasses.  I just hope that the guilty parties dropped their stolen goods on the way home…








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Portuguese Tasting 2015!

March 24th, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

It was that time of year again– the Wines of Portugal Annual Tasting – signalling for me that I had already spent one amazing and faced-paced year here at Clark Foyster Wines, and for the rest of my team, that the end of our busy season of tastings and producer visits was nearing and that Spring was on its way.

Covering pretty much the whole of Portugal, this year’s tasting brought together over 120 of the country’s winemakers. Since our beginnings as a company, we at CF Wines have joined in the fun, presenting our eclectic Portuguese range to the keen folks of London.

And each year always proves to be quite different from the last. This year was the first time that I had the pleasure of meeting the friendly Rui Miranda from Adega de Monçao, Vinho Verde’s impressive regional cooperative; and also the first time that we were introduced to the burly and charming Vasco Magalhães. Vasco had made the trip to London to help us represent Anselmo Mendes’ iconic Alvarinhos from Vinho Verde and also the elegant reds of Anselmo’s more recent project at Quinta dos Frades.

It’s always a pleasure to spend some time catching up with Filipa Pato, this time hearing stories of a new white soon to be uncovered: 100% Bical matured underground in her newfound favourite toy – clay amphorae. And we were honoured to have winemaker Carlos Lucas with us for part of the day too, he and fellow winemaker Lúcia Freitas doing a marvellous job at presenting their wines behind their Magnum Vinhos stand.

Lúcia Freitas, Magnum Vinhos, (second from the right) with the CF team.

Lúcia Freitas, Magnum Vinhos, (second from the right) with the CF team.

Dinner with a few customers and an animated gang of Portuguese winemakers at Covent Garden’s Ten Cases can only add up to a fun evening, especially as we can count on an impeccable welcome from Ian and Brendon… Thank you to you both!

The following day was spent with Lucia and Diogo Campilho, winemaker at Quinta da Lagoalva, trooping around London in the sunshine, in and out of fancy restaurants, groovy independent retailers and modern gastro pubs before they caught an evening flight back home. The Annual Portuguese Tasting, cropping up towards the end of such a busy time for us, is often a bit of a mad-dash I’m told by my colleagues with their years of experience, though always fun and convivial, and more often than not ending with a sweet sense of achievement 🙂 .

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