Bettane & Desseauve: saving the best till last, I was seduced by something new

Why chink glasses?  Drinking wine, we usually see the colour, smell the fragrance, taste the grapes and feel the glass, but there is nothing to hear.  So to compliment all the senses, the chink of crystal.  For me, the Third Edition of the London Wine Experience by Bettane & Desseauve at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea was almost as complimentary.

With great expectation and permission to pass the magnificent Mascaro Guardians, the Cultus Deorum exhibits in the basement gallery launched an unexpectedly brutal assault on the eyes.  Blame Cicero.  Mind you, on the way out, they had acquired an eerie beauty.

Inside the tasting rooms, plenty of velvet, corduroy, Feux suede and cashmere and that’s just the men.  Thirty eight exhibitors, stalls on either side of the room, like a street market and in the middle, two rather elegant, giant, decanter shaped spittoons which, I admit, I first thought were Perry sculptures.  Sorry Grayson.

Reidel Glass, the connoisseurs’ choice, was notably missing.  I’d already checked at Peter Jones.  A dazzle of shapes and sizes for every kind of wine.  Only one shape was provided for us, unless you went in for the private tasting master classes, which cost extra, but then you got a fuller range.

Anyway, wine tasting, as ever, is a subtle and personal interpretation of interplaying elements. The effects of the vineyard, the quality and singularity/blending of grapes, the chalk/clay of the soil, the cultivation and fermentation methods and the ups and downs of the climate.  As a naïve oenologist, or more likely, as a kid in a sweet shop, I won’t judge them, you’ll have to look on and try for yourself, but the selections were as promised, “Le segment haut de gammes”, premium.

Spanish Cava, French Bordeaux and Italian Grifalco wines jostled with Lebanese Ksara, Greek Ktima Gerovassiliou and Argentinian sparkling Chandon, sister to Moet.  For me, saving the best till last (and with the biggest crowd around the stall), the Taittinger Prestige rose (NV) a perfect colour, the right amount of bubbles and no competition, until the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc (2005), when now I’d happily pass a magnum of the first for a glass of the second.

Occasionally people talked too much, insisting on teaching the teachers or spouting to the crowd.  One man, seeking the strongest wines with the most tannin, claimed he could permanently change the wine’s molecular structure with a special substance he carried hidden in a small bottle.  An apparent spinoff from secret research into making fuels go twice as far.  He related the procedure’s wine-smoothing effects to a theory that water has memory.    He couldn’t tell us what the substance was because he’d “have to kill us”, but started to lose it when he said it helped women drink more without getting a hangover and  made his dog appear younger by reducing its grey hair.  It was time to move on.  Yet after three hours and all that wine, I hadn’t heard a single chink.

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