After finishing off some admin duties and walking the dog, I headed into town for the Waitrose press tasting. For the benefit of overseas readers, let me explain that Waitrose is the UK’s most upmarket supermarket, with the sort of wine range that straddles usual inexpensive supermarket fare and also higher-end wines such as you might find in an independent wine merchant.
I always enjoy their tastings, but they can be gruelling if you feel the need to try every wine – there are well in excess of 200. The Waitrose buyers are always very friendly and sociable, and make a point of introducing themselves to each guest, which is a classy touch. At some other tastings the staff hang back on the fringes like tender wallflowers.
Quite a few highlights to report on, but I’ll restrict myself to just one. It was an old Madeira: a 1910 Sercial from D’Oliveira. Unlike many wines, which would be declining as they hit the century, good Madeiras are really just hitting their stride. It’s not just intellectual curiousity tasting 100 year old Madeira; it’s also that they tend to taste fantastic. This was beautifully complex, with an incredible array of nutty, earthy, savoury, mineral, meaty, casky flavours. I didn’t spit my sample. There are only a couple of cases available, and it’s £250 a bottle. But a little goes a long, long way.
More affordably, Waitrose were showing two brilliant 15 year old Madeiras from Henriques and Henriques: a Bual and a Verdelho. Both are brilliant. £19.99 for 50 cl.