The tasting season has begun in earnest in the UK and I have been flitting hither and yon - principally to Bristol (where an increasing number of importers are electing to host events) and London - filling my tasting books with semi-legible scribblings.
SITT - the Specialist Importers Trade Tasting - always offers an opportunity to sample a wide range of fascinating bottles from all corners of the Earth. I was, on this occasion, focused on the Lebanon and Hungary and made some fabulous discoveries.
I am sure that many of you will have tasted/drunk wine from The Lebanon; almost certainly Château Musar, if nothing else. Musar comes from the Bekaa Valley, as do many of the other Lebanese wines that have, to date, been most visible in our markets.
SITT gave me the opportunity to try wines from other areas of that fascinating country and I can only say that what is being done here is a very exciting thing. The Beirut Hills, with vineyards planted a thousand meters above sea level and more, offer something far removed from the sun-drenched wines of the low-lying Bekaa. There is purity and class here and I look forward to keeping abreast of developments.
Hungary has pretty much all it needs to produce wines than can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world. Reds are improving at a rate of knots and the whites are already thrilling. Wines from the Furmint grape are properly exciting and, I suspect, extremely long-lived. The best are far from cheap mind, but then they taste far from cheap: rich liquids of intense mineral expression. I would hold some examples up against the best of Burgundy with interest.
I dined that evening in a Victoria restaurant with a crowd of vignerons from both countries and can confirm that these wines go superbly well with food.
As diversity increases in the wine world, so an exciting future is assured!