While champagne flowed, so too did the ideas at Paris’s three-day VinExpo, a trade fair showcasing the world’s best wine and spirits, held in February this year.
The international capital of wines and gastronomy and the world’s leading tourist destination, Paris was home to the trade fair for the first time, having previously been held at Bordeaux. An estimated 30,000 visitors were expected to attend the exhibition center to discover the latest trend.
Attending the event was Elin McCoy, a wine and spirits columnist for Bloomberg.com, who spent her days tracking down the newest of the new among the three huge halls at the Paris-Versailles Exhibition Centre.
“Products ranged from the sublime to the silly, including such items as the world’s first wine vinified underwater,” Ms McCoy said.
“What struck me most was the popularity of the huge spirits area, where dozens of buyers hung out at a 165-foot-long bar, sipping exotic drinks stirred up by Paris’s top mixologists... One Peruvian example incorporated sacha inchi (Inca chestnuts) and tonka beans from the Amazon rainforest, another from the U.K. was flavoured with local gooseberries, and an Italian one included fresh tomatoes!”
Of all that was on show across the three-day VinExpo, Ms McCoy hand picked her most exciting discoveries:
Best New Champagne - 2016 Champagne Drappier Clarevallis, AUD$78
The blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay, and a bit of blanc vrai (pinot blanc) is the first fizz made by family-owned champagne house, Drappier’s eighth generation—Charline, Hugo, and Antoine— who are all millennials. With organic wine still being an important trend, this certified organic bubbly cuvée offers a fresh, bright, chalky, and very, very dry finish.
Best New Cocktail Ingredient - Paragon Pepper Collection Cordials, AUD$37
Exotic single botanical cordials from Nepal, Ethiopia, and Cameroon based on different local peppers represents the current bartending trend using unusual essences to lift a drink.
Timur Berry, which grows on small trees at elevations of 7,000 feet in Nepal offers a fresh and citrusy flavour similar to grapefruit. The powerful jasmine scents of Rue Berry, from Ethiopia, and the menthol-scented White Penja Pepper, from handpicked and fermented white peppers in Cameroon, left an impression.
Flavor syrup company Monin and award-winning London-based bartender Alex Kratena created the cordials, using new processes such as “supercritical CO2 extraction,” which claims to reproduce a plant’s smell without altering it.
Best New Spirit - Jiu Hai Bu Gan Sadhana, about AUD$141
The world debut of this Tibetan vintage single malt had to be the biggest surprise at the expo. Made with local barley (sourced from a Tibetan monastery, distilled by three women) and yeast grown at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet and aged for nine years in special porcelain amphora, it was finished for six years in used American Bourbon casks and French oak barrels from Sauternes and Layon in the Loire Valley. Unlike any other whiskey, this Amber-colored single malt has delicate floral aromas, tastes very dry, pure, and soft, almost velvety in character.
Best New Inexpensive Red - 2016 Marie Blanque Edition 1, AUD$29
From the three brothers who own Famille Lesgourgues estate in southwest France’s Madiran, comes this brand-new red wine made from tannat, a grape known for super tannic, powerful wines that are often tempered by the addition of grapes such as cabernet franc. This 100% tannat cuvée is different—soft and fresh, with dark, juicy, intense flavors. It was inspired by the artist-brother’s memory of one he drank during a mountain picnic 20 years ago.
Best New Luxury Wine Accessory - Baccarat Passion Champagne decanter, AUD$1468
Jean-Charles Boisset, a flamboyant impresario of California and French wines, launched the new Passion Collection Champagne decanter he created, produced by Baccarat. But who decants champagne?
According to Boisset—the idea is to add smoothness, release the wine’s aromas, and leave you with only the most elegant, tiny bubbles.
Best New Organic Wine - 2017 Domaine Marcel Deiss Riquewihr, AUD$61
Marcel Deiss, one of the top biodynamic domaines in Alsace, will launch this savory new white in the U.S. in the spring. The earthy, seductive blend of pinot gris and riesling is part of a series of new village wines with medieval manuscript-like labels designed to reflect the “emotion” of the wine inside. Alsace lacks the official category of village wines that Burgundy has, and the Deiss family is trying to create one to promote Alsace’s different terroirs.