Since it was London Wine Week I felt that it was appropriate to start my Monday with a casual wine tasting.
I have been a wine drinker for far too many years but I know very little about the grown up grape juice. As soon as I think I know what I like, I order something vile and loose faith that I ever had any knowledge at all.
I have tried to learn but the problem is I am usually drinking whilst attempting to educated myself so, understandably, the information does not stick.
I was also not sure what I should have been focussing on, grape, region, year or all of them? The entire process just seemed like overkill for a drink that I use to help me unwind therefore I have always applied simple tactics in purchasing wine: in a supermarket I went for the one that was discounted and had the least left, when out at a restaurant I looked at the price and decided how flush I was feeling.
I think the thing I dislike most about wine (after the hangovers) is the pretence that often comes when trying to educate myself, that is why when I read Frankie from Mayfairy‘s post, “How to choose wine” and saw that it was similar to mine I decided to join her for a Wine Bluff to Wine Buff course. I also convinced Leanne from Broke in the Big Smoke to come along for the experience because I knew that even if I did not learn much we would have a good laugh in the process.
The event was by The Wine and Spirit Education Trust and took place in the basement bar of Hixter Bankside, (one of Mark Hix’s eight ventures). On entering we were warmly greeted with a cherry and sparkling wine aperitif, then took our seats at the huge american style bar.
The evening was hosted by Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, a lively character with an enthusiasm for wine that was contagious.
Instead of getting right into sloshing down alcohol she started off simple and asked us to peel a grape, placing the stem, fruit and skin into three piles then tasting each individual aspect. This was to give as an appreciation for what we were about to sample.
We then had to pull off a strip of paper and stick it to our tongue, this was not just a hilarious move to make us all look idiotic but a test to check our taste tolerance. Some people simply could not bare to have it on their tongue whereas others, like me, did not love it but could have left it in their mouth for a good while. Supposedly that means I have a strong taste tolerance explaining why I love strong flavours such as black coffee and dark chocolate.
Now it was for the wine; beginning with a Tramshed Chardonnay, Domaine d’Antugnac, Limoux, France which I wasn’t overly excited about. One of my only other wine rules is ABC daaarling (anything but chardonnay) but I was there to learn so gave it a swig.
It was a little sweet for my liking but was not awful. Next we were asked to put lemon in our mouth then try it again, this simple trick made the flavours completely change. We then repeated this method with salt with a similar result.
I was not aware that Hixter and Michelle had joined together to do a food pairing with the wine until bite size portions of potted smoked salmon on Corrigan’s soda bread was brought over to us. Unfortunately I am a vegetarian so did not get to sample any of the dishes but it was another example of how what you are eating can change the complexities of a wine, with people even changing their opinions on wine that they initially disliked.
After the salmon was done we moved onto a Chianti Classico ‘Retromarcia’, Monte Bernari, Tuscany, Italy accompanied by Spiced Sillifeild Farm sausages with mustard. This wine was light, acidic with cherry flavours and was my top pick of the day for a summer.
Lastly we sampled a Malbec ‘La Flor’, Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentia. I drink quite a lot of Malbec at home but little did I know that I was making a perfect food pairing in our house where 90% of our food is served fiery hot.
This heavier wine is made with inky dark grapes giving a jammy richness which complements spicy dishes. The last dish of the evening was buttermilk chicken wings with holy fff… mayonnaise, which though sounded delicious, I was quite content with my glass of red.
The entire evening was the sort of wine tasting that I had been looking for, straight talking and easy to understand – it made wine seem a lot less intimidating.
The main tips I took from Michelle werer that it is not all about knowing the fancy names, places, or grapes in wine but knowing what flavours you enjoy. Don’t feel overwhelmed buying wine, ask questions and explain what you like. If you get a drink that you dislike change your palate with either salt or lemon. I am going to put them into practice in France this week and see if I can bluff myself into connoisseur status.
Have any of you been to a wine tasting? What are your tips for looking like a pro?