Big Indie Wine Fest 2013

Just a quick one about this annual event, part of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF). When I attend events accompanied by other people I find it increasingly harder (and somewhat rude) to spend time taking detailed notes and photos so please, excuse the lack of these here. But I still like to bring some substance as opposed to a straight forward report of what went on; I don’t really see that as added-value for those who read me but did not attend. However, the great thing about wine is that you can procure it in many ways these days so even if you missed out on the festival, you can always look out for the stars of the show (well, mine at any rate).

The BIWF gathers the (small but growing) cream of the wine supply in and around Manchester. First on my list was Muriel Lismonde from Tour de Belfort. Her wines, her enthusiasm and her smile convinced both Miss Mash and I very early on and we have yet to be disappointed. If you still don’t know Tour de Belfort, check out an introduction here and then drop by Le Vin La Table in Hale at your earliest opportunity. The 2012 vintage was not available to taste as they produce small quantities of each wine and can’t afford to dish it out but both Grand Vin 2011 (Chardonnay and Malbec) were there and showing beautifully. Their new bubbly is a pretty classy number too and they also produce a funky semi-sticky Semillon, well worth a try.

Next stop was Dougie from Origin wines. Dougie always has a very eclectic range available and we had our first taste of Turkish wine (an indigenous white grape) which I thought was a good crowd pleaser yet more serious than a Pinot Grigio or a Torrontes. More interestingly he also had two wines made biodynamically, a Spanish and an Italian and I found myself instantly conquered by their liveliness. It’s like the fresh juice of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries but with the more complex layers coming from natural fermentation. It’s different than the over concentrated stuff regularly gracing our tables but it works for me. I bagged a bottle of each 😉

Third on my list was Joanna’s Dusty Road Wines. Joanna and I sat our WSET 2 together and following that she set off to create her own import business, digging out the best of small, independent French winegrowers and bringing it to you from her Cheshire base. Mission accomplished. The adventure is still ongoing and we should see more and more over the next few years but her current range is pretty serious stuff. We mainly tasted the Southern France range (she also has wines from the Loire valley which were not on show) but since we brought a lot of wine back from the Roussillon last month, I couldn’t justify the cost of purchasing from her (her wines are not really entry level price). But it looks like a success story so far and I am very pleased for her. It’s all hard work.

Other merchants were there, Spirited Wines, T. Wright, Corksout to name a few but either I didn’t get the chance to get round to their table or I was not wowed by any of their wines on this occasion. Spirited Wines’ Spanish range last year was outstanding but the South American range this year was good but not for me.

About the event itself as an experience: please, please, whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor, please have a read of Simon Woods recommendations on “Tasting Etiquette” here. My main whinge is about those people who spend half the evening “asking” questions or more likely trying to show off that they know stuff about wine. Completely selfish and rude and you also prevent the guy from selling his wines. Taste, make up your mind, ask a question or two if you are truly interested, move on to the next wine or back off. If you want undivided attention, go to the shop or make a call later.

That is also true for the exhibitors. Sure a lot of people are here to score as much pre-drinking for their buck as possible. But your true customers will appreciate that you don’t make them wait 15 mins to serve them as they are keen to discover your wines. Pay equal attention to everyone. If I do not get your attention after a few minutes I generally take the liberty to help myself to a sample or just move on to the next table. Hope you don’t mind.

I would also add that the event organisation leaves a lot of room for improvement. Coat hangers would be helpful, water at each table too. And not these 5 litter tanks please, we were expecting the merchants to flood their table anytime they were using them…i.e. not very often, understandably.

Overall however, this Mancunian wine fest is a good benchmark of what the small wine purveyors based in the area have to offer in a given year… The setting at the town hall was stunning and I hope it will be held there again next year.

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