Wine Tasting – An Introduction to Wine

Now I’m not a huge wine drinker; it wouldn’t be the thing I’d choose to drink socially, although with food it always a choice (and if there is an open bottle in the house I wouldn’t say no). I’ve an idea of what I like in a bottle / my glass, and a vague idea of what I should be doing when tasting, but in reality it comes down to whether it is drinkable/not-drinkable and whether I’d buy it again.

So, when we were for Christmas given a wine tasting evening (with the Birmingham Wine School) I was eager to learn what I should’ve been doing for all these years – not just how I should’ve been tasting, but which wines I should’ve been drinking. Unfortunately Mrs^ was unable to come with me so I’ve not been able to broaden her palette (yet), so she’s ‘stuck’ on whites.

2013-02-09 18.58.51First off we were told how to look at the wine: by tilting it away in order to look through just a small amount of the liquid, to gauge it’s colour and also to look at the legs – the trails that are left down the inside of the glass indicating strength or sweetness – the more / thicker then the stronger / sweeter the wine is. The came the swirl, what every good wine taster does with so much style and with a flourish; this releases more of the smell of the wine and allows you to sample more of the bouquet. Then after you’ve done all that you can finally taste the thing – who knew that there was so much to wine tasting that doesn’t involve tasting? A good, impolite slurp with the glass draws in air (releasing again more flavour), and a subtle ‘swill’ moves the wine around the mouth allowing every part of the tongue to sample it. Some wines will improve when accompanying food, so we also had a selection of cheeses to tuck into.

Now onto the main event; Whites

1. Sauvignon Blanc – Wairau Cove – NZ – 12.5%
Wine #1 - Sauvingnon BlancLooks: Light / Clear, with only a couple of legs – not looking ‘too’ strong
Smells: Zesty / Sharp apples (or similar)
Tastes: Crisp / Fresh / Citrus-y / Reasonably dry
Notes: Probable aperitif / Social drink / With light bites
Price: I’d suggest ~£8
Rating: x

A note about my rating system: When faced with just one wine, it is hard to place it on a scale, not knowing whether it will be best / worst / etc, so the only ‘sensible’ thing to do is use a little maths. Start with the first score as x, then comparing the others against this benchmark. I can then if required fit a proper scoring system after the event, but I don’t know whether I’d need to, I’ll have my comparison. Also the prices are what I think they’re sold for, not what I’d pay for them.

2. Viognier – Domaine du Bosc – France – 13%
Wine #2 - ViognierLooks: Golden-yellow, more viscous = more alcohol (they kept getting stronger as the wine flowed)
Smells: Apricot-y / Peach-y (although not quite so much on the nose as the others)
Tastes: Denser / Fleshy fruit / A more full-bodied white
Notes: Suits being an accompaniment
Price: ~£12
Rating: x-2

3. Chardonnay – Bonterra – California – 13.5%
Wine #3 - ChardonnayLooks: Straw-yellow, thicker
Smells: Dense / Smooth / Rich & buttery
Tastes: A ‘rich’ whit
Notes: ‘Middle-of-the-road’ (whatever that means)
Price: ~£15
Rating: x-1

Reds

4. Tempranillo (Rioja) – Lagunilla Reserva – Spain – 13.5%
Wine #4 - RiojaLooks: Ruby / Burgundy, being red it looks thinker that then whites, despite the same strength
Smells: Coarse on the nose
Tastes: Deep / Heavy / Oak-y / Dark berries
Notes: Reliable red
Price: ~£7
Rating: x+1

5. Cabernet Sauvignon – Casillero del Diablo – Chile – 13.5%
Wine #5 - Cabernet Sauvignon
Looks: A reddy-shade of plum, as thick
Smells: Fruity & rich
Tastes: Full Bodied (despite that phrase being so cliché)
Notes: This wine describes a “classic Cabernet Sauvignon” – a perfect red to serve for those who don’t know what reds others like.
Price: ~£14
Rating: x+3

6. Blend – Picinni Memoro – Italy – 14%
Wine #6 - BlendLooks: Dark-dark red, thicker still…
Smells: Dark cherries / figs / coffee – (all apparently, as by this point I was not doing well at finding new ways to describe what I was getting)
Tastes: Deep complex taste (that’s what a mix will do) / Almost slightly sweet
Notes: Not for drinking on it’s own – another suited well for an accompaniment.
Price: ~£9
Rating: x+2

Actual Prices & Top-3?
The ~30 people there voted as to whether each wine was in their top-3.
1.
£7.99 – 3rd Favourite
2. £6.75
3. £11.99
4. £8.99
5. £7.99 – 2nd
6. £9.99 – 1st

Verdict
All 6 winesSo in order of preference I would drink 5, 6, 4, 1, 3, 2. However that would depend on the scenario – I like to match my wines (although only really by their colour) to the food I’m eating. Additionally Mrs^ will not appreciate that I liked the 3 reds the best, although saying that the whites I prefer tend to be on the driest end of the spectrum (even drier that 1)… Give me a good Pinot Grigio / Frascati (or similar) any day. Considering that I ranked 5 highest and priced it at almost twice what it should then I shall be seeking it out (although finding it on offer would still be desirable).

So was it worth it? Definitely, although I’m now going to be looked to to check every wine we get in a restaurant from now-on. No pressure then. I’m now at a point of wanting to try more wines, but I dunno whether I’ll stretch to making notes of them all.

One for the roadHaving said all that about how the wines tasted, the best drink of the evening was the one for the road:

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