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Top picks from Virgin Live wine tasting in Belfast

Virgin Wines roll into Belfast
Virgin Wines roll into Belfast

By Paula Gracey

Anything worth having is worth waiting for. It’s been two years since Virgin Wines last rolled into town with their Virgin Live wine tasting tour so I was eagerly anticipating their recent return to the Hilton Hotel in Belfast.

Over 100 wines from 15 countries and a chance to meet the winemakers and producers while wandering around the room, sampling to your heart’s content and making some new friends along the way... there are worse ways to spend an evening.

Not to mention, if you order a case of wine on the night you get back your £20 ticket price and a free bottle of wine! I know… is it any wonder I was counting the days?

Come the night, I left work and hot-footed it down the road to the Hilton arriving on time to actually see the carpet on the floor before the throngs of wine enthusiasts descended.

Glass and booklet in hand we embarked on our supposedly planned out tasting, starting with the whites, fizzies, onto the roses, reds and beyond – it never works, we always get side tracked.

For me, one of the most impressive and different whites was from Chateau Musar in the Lebanon, which has an ancient wine-making culture. Chateau Musar was established in 1930 and despite wars and turmoil in the country down the decades, the Chateau has produced wine every year since, with the exception of 1976.

Chateau Musar Jeune White 2016 (£13.99) is a fabulous blend including Viognier, Chardonnay and Vermentino and is rich and herby with a pleasing mouthfeel, really different and delicious, to be enjoyed young.

The reds from Chateau Musar are always fabulous, so no shock the Chateau Musar 2004 (£29.99) is just plain perfect.

The Rose and Bubbly table offered a lovely selection of fizzies. Personal favourites were Prodezza Prosecco Brus NV, an easy drinking, fun fizz for £10, a superb English sparking wine from Bolney Estate called Bolney Bubbly Brut NV (£23.99) and one from Australia, Woolundry Road Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut NV (£11.99).

Winemaker Andrew Porton’s table offered some excellently priced quality wines and the Shed Ten Chardonnay Semillon 2017 was a steal at £7.99 on the night. An easy drinking blend,a bit nutty with slight minerality, this would be an excellent barbecue wine… just thinking ahead!

The Top Red Picks table was like meeting up with some old friends as I am already a fan of The Flat Iron Winemakers Reserve Malbec 2018 (£8.99), Blackfoot Daisy Merlot 2017 (£9.99) and Little Black Pigs Shiraz 2017 (£9.99) – seriously good value, great quality reds to stock up on.

We rammed on the brakes when we arrived at the Fortified, Sweet and Sherry table -  all the things we love!

Already a Sherry fan I had to try the Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla NV (£10.00), then moving on in a terribly sensible fashion to the Fernando De Castilla Classic Fino  NV (£11.00) followed by the Amontillado – excellent Sherry, we just needed a half barrel table, some olives and breads to sit and ponder the world going by.

Finally, to finish the evening with a bang, I went back to the Fortuna table, with wines from the heart of Tuscany, where I had spied on an early fly by, the Fertuna Etrusco Nero Vermouth Rosso (£30.00) so had to go back and check it out.

We were told this was a rare chance to taste something that rarely leaves Italy and I can now understand why – it is a superb Vermouth Rosso. All I could think of was  the splendid Negronis I could make with this delectable liquor!

Don’t leave it so long to come back to Belfast! Check out my discoveries and keep watching www.virginwines.co.uk for new dates and offers.

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