After such an awesome dinner the night before and a really fun morning out, I was all geared up for KFWE London which was held at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane in Mayfair – right across the street from Hyde Park where so many crazy concerts have been held over the years – including Mick Taylor’s historic public debut with The Rolling Stones in 1969. Even though it’s the middle of winter and nothing is going on there right now, just walking through is sorta cool for classic rock freaks like me.
If KFWE Tel Aviv is sort of a relaxed anything goes vibe – KFWE London is pretty much the exact opposite – though not at all in a bad way. Super classy and formal. We got there on the early side about a half hour before the trade portion opened. A quick registration and we were ready to go. The layout of the regular show portion of the KFWE was a simple square with glasses in the middle of the hall. Only wine tables present in the hall itself with food being laid out in the hallway adjacent and on the balcony floor above. This meant that it was VERY easy to navigate the wines without interruption. After the trade portion was over, waiters did circulate with trays of hors d’oeuvres and were professional and unobtrusive.
What was really nice to see was that much like Tel Aviv, any new wine that was being shown – no matter the price – was available for tasting at the base level show with no need for a VIP ticket. You wanna taste the 2016 Malartic – no problem. A nice chunk of the current Herzog lineup was available on the floor, and I have to say, writing this after having attended all of the KFWE’s, the upper tier Herzog Cabs showed best in London. Also, it was a pleasure to see Netofa at a Royal event. In fact because they were not at any other event, lets talk about the Netofa wines here as opposed to waiting for the final post. There were 3 new wines plus one sort of new wine that I tasted from Netofa – in London of all places.
2018 Domaine Netofa White – This wine is ROCKING. For me it was the best straight white of the evening showcase from this KFWE. On the nose dry grass flower with a hit of citrus In the mouth – more of the same with some nice saline, good acidity. Really nice and of course a QPR superstar.
2018 Domaine Netofa Rose – A strawberry monster both nose and mouth. Very nice though. Medium acidity. A little round, but it finishes nicely. Really a wine that you can gulp down on a hot day and at a great price
2018 Latour Netofa Rosado – Second release of this Tempranillo based Rose. I know that it was divisive last year – it will be again this year as it is in the same style. More tart and slightly more balanced than the Domaine – this wine for me is the winner. Still red berry though raspberry instead of strawberry with nice lime and saline again. This wine is so far the top Rose ’18 (though I have only tasted a handful to date).Super elegant, nice complexity and firing on all cylinders in general. While more expensive than the Domaine, it’s worth it….
2016 Netofa Dor Tempranillo. I have been tasting samples and writing about this wine for over a year now and it is finally released. The wine is incredible. Dark brooding rich – not at all Rioja in style – something entirely different but awesome. Nose is all meat and some smoke with something mineral underneath. Mouth is layers and layers of dark fruit, meat, herbs and a rich chocolate finish. The wine is perfectly balanced with excellent acid and beautiful tannin really a wonderful wine – so happy that it’s out. It is a limited production so don’t wait too long on this one.
Back to the event – after tasting through the wines present I made my way up to the VIp floor which was nicely set up with a food room and a seperate wine room. The wines showed in the VIP room were for the most part top tier wines of slightly older vintages and different formats. So there was a magnum of the ’15 Leoville, they had multiple vintages of Giscours in addition tot he current and they were pouring the ’14 Rayne-Vigneau. Royal did a really nice job here.
So what would I change? 3 things. Walking into the hall while we they were finishing preparations, I was immediately hit by the heat. There were maybe 10-15 people in there at the time and it was HOT. The sweat started running. And then the people started coming in -luckily it was not too crowded at the trade section and when that ended I headed up to the VIP. BUT IT WAS HOT THERE TOO! I mean over the course of the evening people were looking for soft drinks to cool down more than they were looking for great wines to drink! That’s nuts. Not sure how much control anyone has over the venue heating – but it was downright uncomfortable at times.
The next thing is the size of the main room when the regular section opened up . This show is SUPER popular. And that is a testament to how well it has been put together all of these years – but it may simply need a bigger space. At times you just couldn’t move in the main hall. I guess this is a rich-man’s problem for Royal… Time to expand.
Lastly, and this was the biggest disappointment, the food needs to be upgraded. I tasted through almost every dish. In main hall I found the duck pancakes OK – but my favorite dish was the chicken fingers. You read that correctly. That was really the only thing I would go back for. When chicken fingers are the best thing on the menu, you have a problem. Moving up to the VIP – things did not get better. Out of all of the dishes, the only thing that really was passable was the short ribs. That’s because they tolerate being overcooked. Everything else that I had was WAY overdone. And it’s a pity because the menu on paper was excellent! Royal spared no expense and tried to put out quite a spread. They had trays and trays of whole duck breast which unfortunately were cooked well done so they were grey and grainy. Salt beef – or as we Americans like to call corned beef – which was lean and dry. And for the biggest sin – there was a chef who was pan searing Foie Gras – which had already been cooked once ( I assume this was for Kashrut reasons). Just getting it hot would meant that it ended up overdone. There is nothing worse then grey, mealy goose liver. What a shame! I understand that the British palate might be different than Israeli or American tastes. Americans may like their meat cooked slightly more rare and Israeli fine dining restaurants serve everything at temps that are even below what is done in the US. But Goose Breast and Foie Gras? That is pretty much standard in every country. If you are finishing things at the venue anyhow, perhaps they way to go is pre-cook rare and then have the people on site cook it it to the requested level of done-ness to order. Then again, maybe everyone in the UK likes stuff well done+. Worth looking into – perhaps taking a poll of the people who buy VIP tickets each year.
So to sum it all up, London KFWE was a lot of fun. The wine was top notch and showed well. While I would have preferred more current vintages on the whites, that is up to the British consumer. The venue layout was good, though could use a little more room during peak in the main hall, and a little AC. The only major issue is the food – but hey, it’s really about the wine – and there Royal did a wonderful job! I am sure the food can be sorted out as well.
My thanks to Royal Europe who hosted me at this event and of course to my hosts in London who probably don’t want to be named and the wine drinking community of Hendon – what a great place! Hope to be back soon….
For the previous article in this series, click here.
Next up: KFWE NY – Pre game