Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dirty Dozen: tasting of the year?

Wine tastings aren't half as much fun as they seem from the outside. They're usually huge, overheated, crowded and full of dull wines. Or, at least, most of them are dull.

The Dirty Dozen tasting was only guilty of one of those crimes - it was ridiculously cramped due, apparently, to the fact that the ceiling of the room it had been booked to take place in at the English Speaking Union had collapsed so it was held in a conservatory at the side whose wooden floor creaked ominously as the several hundred members of the press and wine trade milled around it.

The wines, however, were just thrilling. I started with a selection to which each merchant had contributed 2 bottles and there wasn't a dud one among them.

So who are the (surely misnamed) Dirty Dozen? A group of wine merchants who specialise in artisanal producers including a fair number of organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers. They included some familiar ones to me - Aubert & Mascoli (hardcore natural), Burgundy specialists Flint Wines, Indigo Wines (largely Spain) , London-based Roberson, Bristol-based Vine Trail (very well sourced wines from France) and German specialist The WineBarn, so having a limited amount of time I concentrated on a few I wasn't so familiar with.

The highlight was fortyfive10° which imports Italian wines from family-owned domains, the idea being to deal with estates that have form when it comes to winemaking. The owner Massimiliano Jacobacci states that he looks for "wines that express the history of a region through traditional wine making techniques as opposed to the current trend for wines of immediate accessibility at the expense of complexity and longevity." Or, as he put it to me more simply "We don't do entry level wines. I don't like them and I don't want to sell them."

So their wines obviously don't come cheap but if you want to be blown away dig deep in your pockets and buy a bottle of the stunning Sodi di San Niccolo from Chianti producer Castellare di Castellina, a beautifully crafted blend of Sangioveto and Malvasia Nera and one of the most delicious reds I've tasted this year. (My tasting note says 'heaven'!) The vintage I tried was the 2005 which doesn't seem to be in the market but you can find the 2004 from a wine and events company called A Moveable Feast in which Jacobacci also seems to be involved.

They (fortyfive10°) also supply a number of high profile London restaurants including Chez Bruce, The Ledbury, Polpo, Roka and the River Café.

Anyway I suggest you get yourself on the mailing list of all these importers and make sure, if you're in the trade, that you get to The Dirty Dozen tasting next year. Which I hope will be in a larger room.


  1. I very much enjoyed this tasting as well. My favourite table was by merchant H2Vin.

    Best tasting this year focusing on the premium market.

  2. I didn't manage to get round to them, unfortunately. Which particular wines did you like, Steve?