It's a tough life being a winewriter, but there is the occasional perk. Like today's Alion vertical, followed by lunch, which was held at top London eatery The Square. Of course, wine nuts reading will already be aware that Alion is a separate estate in Spain's Ribera del Duero owned by Vega Sicilia, making wines in a more modern style (but this is relative: Vega Sicilia is very traditional). We tried all the vintages of Alion, ranging from the inaugural 1991 to current release 2003, plus the current releases of Vega Sicilia Unico, Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial, Pintia Toro, Valbuena, Mandolas and Oremus Tokaji, in the company of proprietor Pablo Alvarez and winemaker Javier Ausas. A rather special line up of wines, and the prospect of trying these coupled with lunch at the square brought out the great and good of the winewriting/drinking fraternity.
For the tasting I was flanked by David Peppercorn and Steven Spurrier, with Serena Suttcliffe sharing the same table. In front was Jancis, Sarah Jane Evans, Beverly Blanning, Hamish Anderson, Stuart Peskett (Harpers) and Linden Wilkie. Also spotted were the Irish contingent (Tomas Clancy, Joe Breen, Liam Campbell and Raymond Blake), Julian Jeffs QC (who was a charming companion at lunch) and Stephen Brook.
- Roast isles of Orkney scallop with vanilla, endive, tangerine and sauternes (the only dish that didn't really work)
- Tortellini of Devon crab with a capuccino of shellfish and basil (sensational, as were all the dishes from here onwards)
- Roast fillet of john dory with oxtail, morels and red wine
- Roast and smoked loin of fallow deer with celeriac, chanterelles, caramelised root vegetables and pink peppercorns
- Comte and st nectaire
- Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with rhubarb
Pictured: Vega Sicilia winemaker Javier Ausás presenting his wines