Even a few years ago, it would never have happened.

The Consorzios of Barolo and Brunello not only showed their wines under the same roof – but did it with infectious enthusiasm. “It was like getting the Montagues and the Capulets to host a joint wedding reception,” joked Peter Dean of The Buyer.

Breaking with the tasting convention, Swirl Wine Group brought together wines from two of Italy’s greatest regions for a tasting aptly entitled “The Italian Kings”. This subversion of tradition wasn’t just for press inches: from the point of view of those attending, it was a covetable opportunity to compare and contrast. The appeal was clear from the bustling events – not to mention the calibre of those attending.

The aim of the tasting was to strengthen the export market for top drawer Italian wine, capitalising on the growing on-trade appetite for fine Italian wines at the top end of their lists.

Together with the Swirl Wine Group team, Sarah Abbott MW hosted not only a thought-provoking tasting, but also a fascinating masterclass on the theme of “Tannin, Terroir, Transparency and Time”. As Yegas Narioo, IWC Judge & airline consultant said, “[Sarah] was outstanding, the depth of her knowledge is superb and delivery excellent. Choice of wines also very eclectic but relevant.”

Comparative tastings aren’t just a trend. They reveal unexpected depths in all wine types shown. As Sarah remarked: “[Barolo and Brunello] both use similarly fussy grapes grown in nuanced and healthily knife-edged terroir… they are both ancient varieties whose genetic variability gives them a mercurial relationship with the environment”. It’s only by tasting these wines side-by-side that their dramatic similarities and contrasts are revealed.

Robin Goldsmith succinctly described the tasting when he praised the “dynamic and visionary marketing initiative that brings these distinct styles of textured, nuanced and complex wines together on the same stage. “I love the description of Barolo as ‘beguiling, paradoxical interaction of perfume, tannin, texture, power & delicacy’, while Sangiovese ‘gives something dangerous or wild with its aromatic character – strange & savoury’.”