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The week in pictures

On Tuesday, 10 November, 260 members of the UK wine trade gathered at Banking Hall in London to taste the top 100 Rioja wines, specially selected by an expert panel, at the Rioja 10 x 10 trade tasting.

Following the tasting, six industry personalities were honoured by the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja this week at the inaugural Rioja Recognises awards. During a canapé reception at Hispania London, where guests enjoyed a selection of wines from the earlier Rioja 10×10 trade tasting, the Consejo’s President, José Maria Daroca, along with Charles Metcalfe as compere, presented Sarah Jane Evans MW and Tim Atkin MW with ‘Outstanding Contribution’ awards for their ongoing commitment and support of the Rioja category.

Olly Smith was recognised as Communicator of the Year, and leading Spanish chef José Pizarro received an award for On-Trade Personality of the Year. Beth Willard was recognised as Off-Trade Personality of the Year for her efforts with Laithwaites before Distributor of the Year was named as Matthew Clark’s long-standing purchasing director of wine, Simon Jerrome.

A beaming Olly Smith, just named Communicator of the Year, poses with the girls from Phipps PR.

Lucy Whitehall, Brand Ambassador for The Famous Grouse, won the Scotland’s Regional Young Ambassador award in this year’s regional final for Tayside and Fife at the prestigious Scottish Thistle Awards this week.

Lucy, who is based at The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, was recognised as an individual who shows promise as a rising star in Scottish tourism “with her passion for whisky and the future of the industry”.

(L to R) Grace Hightower, Robert De Niro and chef Nobu Matsuhisa (Photo: Dave Benett)

The 10th anniversary party at Nobu Berkeley Street took place this week. The party was co-hosted by founders Nobu Matsuhisa and Hollywood actor Robert de Niro (pictured, with his wife, Grace Hightower). A number of actors and musicians attended, including Tom Hollander, Miranda Richardson, Alice Eve, Tommy Lee and Natalie Imbruglia. The three Multi Vintages from Champagne Bruno Paillard, which are available by the glass at the restaurant, were enjoyed by guests: Brut; Rose; and Blanc de Blancs.

Dom Pérignon has teamed up with Les 110 de Taillevent – the new London offshoot of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, which just opened its doors in Cavendish Square. Richard Geoffroy (pictured right), Dom Pérignon’s Chef du Cave, and Taillevent’s team have created a mutual food pairing inspired by the “aromatic ripeness” of the Dom Pérignon 2006 Blanc Vintage, which was launched in October.

Champagne Thiénot released a new Champagne, Black Ball, in the US this week with the help of Alicia Keys, from which a portion of its sales will go to the ‘Keep A Child Alive’ charity. Above is Alicia Keys (right) and Garance Thiénot.

New Zealand organic winery Mahana Estates played host to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, this week during a 12-day tour of the country. The Royal couple timed their visit to coincide with the Mahana Estate’s ‘From Source to Serve’ food and wine event, which showcased Nelson’s local produce, including wines, craft beers and cider, cheese and seafood.

George Sandeman, 7th generation of The House of Sandeman, was in London this week to celebrate 225 years of the House of Sandeman, and to launch The Sandeman 225th Anniversary Collection. The launch took place at 20 St Swithins Lane which was the original bottling cellar of Sandeman Port and, as “The Sign of The Don” brasserie today, bears the name of Sandeman’s iconic cloaked figure.

During the event Sandeman spoke of his belief that Port could learn from the success of iced cider in order to tap into a new generation of drinkers in the on-trade.

The six labels in The Sandeman 225th Anniversary Collection were unveiled on the night: “The Word”, “The Spirit”, “The Journey”, “The Craft” “The Pioneer” and “The Hat & Cape”. 225 complete collections have been made and each is presented in a beautifully crafted wooden box including a commemorative anniversary book. A magnificent 225th Sandeman birthday cake was delivered by The Don himself.

Moustache-themed dishes have been introduced at The Bath Arms pub in Brighton (owned by Shepherd Neame) to promote the Movember fundraising initiative in the UK, raising money for prostate cancer research. Above is the “Moussetachio” – white chocolate and pistachio mousse with a cracked pepper tuille.

The Kingsland Drinks team seem delighted with their Salford City Mayor’s Charter for Employment Standards Award, which they were given this week for their sustained support for the local community.

British cider brand Orchard Pig has announced it’s experimenting with its own unique version of a drone delivery service. Following on from huge US giants including Amazon, Google and Walmart, Orchard Pig has added a British twist by “making pigs fly”.

db was delighted to be invited back to Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square this week to attend its first private wine dinner hosted by California wine pioneer Bruce Cakebread and Corney & Barrow. During the delicious dinner of Les 110’s signature dishes we tasted through the Cakebread range, with top drop Dancing Bear Cabernet stealing the show for us. Bruce revealed then when he retires from wine he wants to start a sideline making… cake bread!

This guy didn’t seem too happy about being on the menu…

The night after our feast at Les 110 de Taillevent we were invited into the cosy and welcoming bosom of Christie’s private dining room for a sumptuous dinner ahead of the Hospices de Beaune auction this weekend. Among the enthusiastic attendees was wine writer Sophie McLean (left) who seems delighted with her glass of Meursault-Charmes premier cry Cuvée Albert Grivault 2012.

But even more stunning whites were to follow, including this bottle of liquid gold.

As for the reds, we were treated to this stunning trio from Beaune, Pommard and Mazis-Chambertin, each displaying elegance, perfume, ripe red fruit and Burgundy’s signature silky charm.

The decadent dinners just kept on coming this week, as Wednesday night saw us descent into the cellars of Copa de Cava in Blackfriars for a feast hosted by the ever ebullient Jimmy Smith of the West London Wine School and Rioja legend Jesus Madrazo of Contino, who talked us through some of the treasures in his range including his barrel-fermented white Rioja, Contino Gran Reserva 2007 and top drop Viña del Olivo 2010.

This little piggy went to market. We felt wicked for enjoying this little guy so much, but he paired so perfectly with the velvety Riojas we couldn’t resist.

We also found time to visit Gusbourne estate in Kent this week as part of our exploration into England’s top sparkling wine estates. We were given a grand tour by CEO Ben Walgate, who spoke passionately about taking a vintage approach at Gusbourne and celebrating vintage variation. He also described England’s top producers as being more like great grower Champagnes than Grandes Marques both in character and approach.

After a brisk walk through the vineyards, we headed to the tasting room to quaff our way through the range, which includes brut, blanc de blancs and rosé sparklers and two hugely impressive still wines – a Pinot Noir and barrel-fermented Chardonnay, which had the texture and palate weight of a fine Burgundy.

We also caught up with winemaker Charlie Holland, who treated us to a sneak preview of his 2015 Pinot Noir, which is already showing great promise. While sparkling wine is his day job, he told us he loved the challenge of making still wines in England, admitting that Chardonnay is harder to make year in year out than Pinot. Among his other projects is a ratafia-style sweet wine that will go down a treat at Christmas.

The Rivington Grill in Shoreditch has teamed up with chocolatier Mast on a range of cocktails, including the Bitter-Sweet Negroni made with chocolate-infused Campari; the Manhattan to Brooklyn, boasting chocolate-infused rum; and the Hipster X featuring chocolate-infused Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

And finally… underground Blitz-era bar Cahoots in Soho opened late this week to welcome the Argento Malbec “night train”, where guests glugged bottles of the Argentine red to the sounds of live jazz.

And those not so keen on big velvety reds could knock back these festive-themed cocktails instead.

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