Around 50 London Bloggers from the almost 400 members of The London Bloggers Meetup Group enjoyed a great time in the basement at Ember in Farringdon last night, tasting wines provided by wine bloggers from Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, invited by Robert McIntosh of the Wine Conversation blog and Thirst for Rioja,to contribute some bottles of wine and a short video for the occasion.
Robert pours a wine sample
This is a photo blog and not a wine blog, so let me start by saying something technical about the pictures before getting down to the wine. I was working with the Nikon D300, starting with a 20mm f2.8 and then moving to a Sigma 18-125mm lens. As usual I worked in P mode, but with the SB-800 flash set to work at -2/3 stop to avoid any over-exposure. The flash was in TTL/FP mode, with a minimum shtter speed of 1/60, and I set the4 ISO to 1250 so that the dim light in the bar would add a little to those areas not lit by flash. Quality at 1250 is still pretty good on the D300, but with a D700 or D3 I would probably have prefrred to work at 2500 or 3200.
Glasses waiting for the tasting as Robert talks about the wines
I had the translucent dome diffuser on the flash to give an even spread of light over the frame – almost all the pictures I took were at 18-20mm. Apertures – set by the camera – were around f8, which with this wideangle gives plenty of depth of field. I worked with the camera on autofocus, selecting a focus area on the closest face in the picture.
The flash head was generally angled so that most of the light rteaching the subject was bounced from the slightly off-white ceiling. It coloured the flash a little, but I think the white point aedjusts for this as it is the main light, and leaving the camera on auto white balance gave good results. On shots where a part of the subject was close to the camera I generally swivelled the flash head away from that direction.
Enthusiastic bloggers towards the end of the evening
Despite the use of bounce flash in most of the pictures there was still considerable light fall-off evident in the images, which is where Lightroom 2.1 came in. In most of these images I’ve done some burning in of faces, arms and hands close to the camera and a little dodging of important but more distance areas. Using ceiling bounce, areas such as the tops of balding heads need considerable attention to bring them to a normal density. Somehow ears too can often seem too bright however you light things, and so need a little burning down too.
Of course there would be some advantages in using the flash away from the hot shoe, but this makes things far less convenient. And as I think these results show you can do surprisingly well with a flash on your hot-shoe.
Now for the wine – and it was a fine selection.
Thirst for Rioja
Robert’s own blog on the Rioja area for Spain and in particular the Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco, Bodegas Criadores de Rioja and Bodegas Carlos Serres which he represents. His video - his first – is perhaps a little too static and information filled. The wines he brought were a white Vivanco Viura Malvasia, Rioja, 2007 which I didn’t taste and Dinastia Vivanco Rioja Crianza, 2004, a really fine oak-aged red I’d be very happy to drink again.
Winzer is German for Winegrower and Thomas Lippert writes about his daily work growing grapes and making and selling wine. His video tour of the estate has some nice touches but is far too jumpy. Thomas provided Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2007, Weingut Clauer which I didn’t taste.
Javier Navarro‘s site about this cooperative winery in Higueruela, a small town near Alicante, where almost all of the 1300 inhabitants belongs to the co-op. The video has a few pictures of it near the end. But what impressed me rather more was the smooth deeply coloured Higueruela wine – probably my favourite red of the evening.
Gianpaolo Paglia blogs for Poggio Argentiera, a young winery with two estates in Tuscany. As well as a video in which he talks about the area and its wines in English, you can watch another in Italian which shows you the area and the grapes, and very much makes me want to pay a visit there. The red wine, Bellamarsilia – Morellino di Scansano, was, as the web site says “perfect for every day, informal drinking, fantastic for parties, middle-of-the-week suppers at home or in a nice little eatery, or by the glass over lunch.”
Casa de las Vides
Emilio Saez Van Eerd from Casa de las Vides in Valencia, Spain sent us a video with some nice still pictures of the vineyard and winery (though I find the music over-obtrusive.) The CVP 2007 was another fine oak-aged wine, though not my personal favourite of those tested.
Cortes de Cima
Jose Eduardo J Silva writes a very readable blog (in English) about this family owned vineyard and winery in the south of Portugal. The vineyards look a little bleak in the video, which also shows the winery. The dark red fruity Syrah 2004 did, as it said on the video, make me want to have another glass, and I did. Another good drinking wine.
Justin Roberts of the Vinos de Jerez etc… blog persuaded Jan Pettersen at Rey Fernando de Castilla to supply their Antique Oloroso, and made a video interview with the man who made it. I’m sorry I didn’t get to taste it, but there is only so much I can drink, and I’ve never been a great fan of sherry, although one of the few perks of being a union rep some 25 years ago was that the boss used to always give me a glass if I went to see him late morning.
And I don’t often drink port, but at the end of the evening I just couldn’t resist some of Quevodo Port’s Special Reserve Tawny. Again there is a video, by Oscar Quevedo, the youngest member of the family who have been making Port for over 100 years in Portugal above the River Douro, and one of five bloggers on their site. An 8 year old fruity wine with 19% alcohol, it did really make excellent drinking, though I was very pleased I wasn’t driving the bus or train home.