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The Laithwaites Wine Festival 2024

Laithwaites Wine Festival

This year a few of us from WinesDirect were kindly invited along to the Laithwaites Wine Festival in May to get to meet producers, distributors, importers and celebs alike. And then not forgetting the important business of tasting the wines of course, including classics like Cabalié and The Black Stump Durif Shiraz but also a number of the fine wines and more unusual varieties and countries that were there.


What is the Laithwaites Wine Festival like?

This festival is arguably the best I have ever been to and is open for everyone. You may (or may not) have missed this year but if you are looking for an exciting and interesting way to kick off Summer then this is a surefire way to achieve it.

It takes place in the Kensington Olympia with wine stands laid out by country and producer with a fine wine room upstairs. There isn’t just wine there either, you’ll find premium spirits from the likes of Glenfiddich, Sipsmith and so on as well as a Silent Disco, the Cheese Hub by Alex James (The bassist of British band blur) who also had his sparkling and aptly named Britpop available to taste. Finally, as if that wasn’t more than enough extra to sink your teeth into, there is The Taste Theatre which is essentially a stage hosting wine masterclasses and exciting news in the industry to hear all about. Oh, and these talks come from various big names like Oz Clarke (as seen constantly on TV), Henry Laithwaite himself and so on. This may sound like a distraction from the wine tasting itself, but taking it slowly is always a pretty good idea at these events with free-flowing booze of all forms!


Are Laithwaites Wines any good?

The simple, honest answer is very good. Having tried a number from all sorts of countries, grapes and regions, there is little doubt that Laithwaites’ wines are top quality drops that push you into the joy of wine well above the supermarket offering but without breaking the bank. In truth, at the festival I tried far too many to remember them all, especially as I lost the rather handy Festival Guide they gave us which was filled with my own tasting notes. Don’t lament too much though, you can download a version online at Laithwaites to check it out yourself. This was useful in jogging the memory. But, below I’ve put a selection of my standout wines from the evening. And if you haven’t shopped with Laithwaites before, then these are a great way to start. Just don’t forget to use our Vouchers below to save some money!


Cabalie

This will perhaps come as little surprise to Laithwaites shoppers that Cabalie is on the list. The stall was hosted by one of the winemakers of Cabalie and they had them all on display for me to sample my way through. The standard Cabalie Red is the absolute favourite but I had the chance to taste the Vieilles Vignes and the Origine too which are different blends and rise in quality, body and intensity. Yes, you can improve on the normal Cabalie if you like even beefier wines!

The White and Rose are also available if you enjoy good, Southern French blends that are easy drinking and refreshing. We seriously suggest checking out the Cabalie range and perhaps even upgrading to the Vieilles Vignes and Origine if you are one of the many regular Cabalie fans.

Shop the Cabalie Range Here


Black Stump Durif Shiraz

This wine is part of yet another popular wine range of Laithwaites’ but again, there is good reason. We had 4 wines on display to try starting with the zingy, crisp Black Stump Sauvignon and stone fruit led Black Stump Chardonnay Pinot Grigio, we then sampled the tried and tested reds. The Black Stump Durif Shiraz is a classic Aussie blend that gives a rich, smooth wine filled with black fruits and spice. The next one excited me the most which was The Black Stump Reserve Shiraz which had a much greater, weighty uplift through use of oak.

Shop the Black Stump Range Here


Laithwaites Wine Festival Apalta
Laithwaites Wine Festival Sherry
Laithwaites Wine Festival Bramito

Britpop

This was actually the first stall we started with, and as said above, is from Blur’s bassist Alex James. We tried both the Britpop Rose and Britpop Brut (although there was also an Elderflower Spritz and Cider available to taste if you are curious. The Rose was filled with red berries and citrus as you might expect, but the toasty finish really helped differentiate it from the competition on the market. The Brut was nice and refreshing with a creamy body, stone fruit and biscuity flavours characteristic of quality English sparkling.


Pillastro Primitivo

Moving onto Italy, I met the youngest winemaker behind the Pillastro wines who was very knowledgeable and importantly enthusiastic! I kicked off in order with the standard Pillastro Primitivo which is a well rounded wine displaying red fruit (raspberry & plum) with a nice sweet-spiced finish. Next the Pillastro Anniversario which spends extra time ripening grapes on the vine and longer in barrel is a bit of a treat. It dials up the standard wine in fruit, intensity, complexity and helps that sweet-spice shine even more. The final one was Pillastro Selezione d'Oro which uses vines over 50 years old to enhance the quality and depth of the wine. It is complex, rich and heady as wines go!


Danaris Blauer Zweigelt

This goes slightly off the beaten track to Austria, but I had to highlight this wine. Zweigelt is a firmly Austrian red grape and creates light styles of red with spice and depth. It was beautifully silky smooth and oozed cherry. It is perfect to drink at any time. You can then upgrade to the Kellermeister Reserve Zweigelt which has the addition of oak adding extra spice and weight. I really recommend these two if you are looking to explore, which is part of the point!


Are the Laithtwaites Fine Wines good too?


Laithwaites Wine Festival Pieropan La Rocca

Laurent Perrier

Having got to the fine wine room, the only thing to do was make a beeline straight to the Laurent Perrier stall. A tasting of the Laurent Perrier 2015 Vintage set us off to a great start. It is bursting with flavour and the hallmarks of good vintage Champagne, but I’d argue would be even more fantastic with a few more years. The main event however was the latest iteration of the Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle which is a blend of vintages aged for 10 years on lees. This vintage blending allows them to fine tune the Champagne to the nth degree. Then the very long ageing lets it develop into a super complex, exceptional Champagne. Now, the price makes it one for very special occasions, but it is fantastic.

Shop the Laurent Perrier Range Here



Domaine Bott-Geyl

These are an Alsatian producer which I have a particular fondness for so had to mention their wines. Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewurztraminer Grand Cru 'Sonnenglanz' is very worthy of a mention. If you like honey, tropical pineapple and mandarin coupled up with sweetness and excellenty balanced minerality then you’ll be right at home with this wine. The next I’ll mention was from the same Grand Cru vineyard, the Domaine Bott-Geyl Organic Pinot Gris. It still had sweetness but to a lesser extent. It was rounded and rich with ripe fruits and a long, spiced finish.

Honourable Mentions

Product Mentions
Laithwaites Wine Cambridge Truffle Gin

I can’t list them all in too much detail because there were simply too many that were so good. So, here are some especially worthy mentions:

  • La Rocca Organic Soave from Pieropan was amazing. Picture almond and honey combined with rich, creamy apricot.
  • Stellenrust Series Rare Mothership Chenin Blanc - Toasty, rich, creamy, green fruits, intense lemon. Chenin done to perfection.
  • Le Petit Clos - This is a true Bordeaux blend, as in, it uses a lot of Carmenere because it is from Chile, but Carmenere used to be a big component of Bordeaux. It’s powerful, complex with berry, spice, tomato leaf and oak.
  • Greywacke Chardonnay - I’ve been wanting to try this for some time. It has nutty complexity and creamy richness whilst managing to remain crisp and elegant.
  • Cambridge Distillery Truffle Gin - You see truffle gin and think, oh it’ll just be a hint of truffle. You’d be wrong here. If ever there was a gin to sip neat, this takes the mantle. I think I don’t need to go too much into the flavours as I’m sure you can guess.
by David Andrews, 31st May 2024

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David Andrews, DipWSET

David Andrews, DipWSET

David brings great enthusiasm to the wine industry, starting with Majestic Wine in 2019 and now joining us at Winesdirect in 2023. He has completed his WSET Diploma qualification and looking forward to share his expert knowledge and tidbits of the wine world.

As an industry enthusiast and expert, David also writes a regular blog on instagram. Check it out here @oinosattheoikos

Read more articles by: David Andrews


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