The start of our trade event season for 2011 began this week with our hosting a stand at The Specialist Importers Trade Tasting event (SITT) 2011 in Manchester (Monday) and London (Wednesday). We have worked at this event for the past couple of years and watched it grow into an already much talked about interesting show for the smaller, specialist merchants in the UK wine trade.

The SITT acronym is an ironic one as a long day is spent on one’s feet tasting, chatting and advising a steady flow of guests including Sommeliers, Journalists, fellow wine merchants and consultants. There was certainly precious little time to sit!

Michael and Tom attended the Manchester event, which as a rule is a little quieter than the London one. Tom the hot footed it back to help Jason and I look after things in London at Vinopolis in the historic Borough market near London Bridge.

We always try to keep our wine selection fairly small and snappy, but equally try to reflect as much of our varied and wide-ranging portfolio as possible. This tasting provided a good opportunity to look at some of our 2009 vintages that are going to be firmly at the forefront of our 2011 list. The white wines were all particularly well received on the day (which may partly reflect the ambient temperature of a packed hall)!

I thought that our Condrieu Terroirs 2009 (100% Viognier) from Francis Merlin was an excellent wine; good body, with lots of that AC typical minerality that makes Viognier wines from this area so interesting and different. One of the comments from a journalist who tasted it on the day was that it was refreshing to try a Condrieu that actually tasted like Condrieu is meant to, which is something very different from Viognier found elsewhere in the wine world. A third of the assemblage is put into oak and this helps carry the complex flavours through to a long and satisfying finish. This is a great early showing for the 2009 Rhône wines that we have been telling you about for the past couple of months.

Domaine Saparale Vin de Corse Sartène Rosé 2009 (Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Vermentino) is a stand out rosé wine. From sun-blessed Corsica, it has a lovely pale Salmon colour with lots of mouth-filling summer fruit flavours as well as crisp, slightly savoury tinge. This is Spring/Summer drinking out on the terrace with a salad or some seafood.

All of the reds that we had on show are firm favourites of mine and I am really pleased that our Pascal Frères Gigondas 1999 was well received by people on the day. Gigondas is generally a younger, more rustic cousin to the refined, maturity of good Châteauneuf du Pape and it is not often that you can find it available with any decent age. We are fortunate to have a long standing working relationship with Yves Cheron and he continually delights with his late release of these great value wines. Don’t get me wrong, this Gigondas does not have the rich complexity of good Châteauneuf, but to be fair it also does not have the price tag! Beautiful autumnal flavours expand on the palate, the rusticity of youth has been mellowed with age into a smooth, warming wine. Plenty of classic cigar box aromas and long finish, make this a wine for slow, relaxed contemplation. A great value wine in my opinion.

Overall, it was another successful event, lots of interesting wines on show and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and new. When the doors finally closed after a busy day dispensing wine, we continued the long standing wine trade tradition and swapped the grape for the grain with a quick refreshing beer from the nearest market tavern, albeit though, still no seat to be had.