At the risk of sounding like I have a drinking problem I’ll admit that I love wine. I love a cold glass of goodness at the end of a painful work day, that bottle you savour during a lazy Sunday afternoon, or those mixed and matched bottles that you go through when you have a bunch of friends round. Heck, I even love pouring a good glug of it into my risotto or stew.
However, I’ll also admit that I don’t really know that much about wine; the quantity of my intake unfortunately does not correspond with the quantity or quality of my knowledge.
I know what I like; the usual suspects being sauvignon blancs and malbecs, and I guess the flipside is that I know what I don’t like. The ever popular chardonnay is top of that list, closely followed by those wishy washy pinot grigios, but aside from those extremes there’s a lot of grey area in between where I am flummoxed.
Having confessed this, you can imagine why I was more than a little nervous stepping into The Providores and Tapa Room on a recent Monday afternoon to take part in a New Zealand Pinot Noir tasting presented by The New Zealand Wine Cellar. I walked into a dining room flanked by rows of wine on either side – there were around 30 bottles, arranged geographically according to the vineyard, less than half of which I actually recognised by name. It was at this point that I really felt out of my depth. My love of wine revolves around it being an accompaniment to a great meal or the social joy in sharing a bottle with friends, but here I was surrounded by people who truly love wine.
These were real wine connoisseurs who knew how to scrutinise each wine properly. I watched as they looked at the wine from all angles, checking the colour, and giving it a swirl to observe the wine legs (yes, that is a real term). Next there was some sniffing to detect the flavours, followed by sipping, and of course spitting, because this is a wine tasting exercise, not to be confused with wine drinking.
Rather tentatively I followed suit and went through the requisite steps, but dare I say, they all tasted pretty similar – I really didn’t know what I was looking for, so I asked around the experts for some tips. The response I got was pretty simple: I should just try to pick out a couple of flavours, decide whether or not I liked it, and why. Easy peasy. And actually, from an amateur’s perspective it was; the whole exercise stopped being daunting and was just really fun.
The room was filled with a combination of wine lovers from all parts of the spectrum; winemakers, wine writers, sommeliers, wine distributors, wine promoters, and even a Master of Wine. Each had their insights and perspectives on the various wines on show, and I soon learnt that the discussion is most definitely not just about the taste. I listened as they talked about the grape varieties, the impact of the soil and the location of the vineyard, the ageing process, the filtering process, the specialities of certain regions, the food pairings and much more. By the time we completed the tasting (as well as the delicious lunch that accompanied it), I considered myself a tiny bit more educated in the ways of the wine world.
I’m a long way from being able to discuss a wine’s legs, or even from confidently identifying one type from another, but I know that I will be taking a lot more notice of the look and smell of a wine before gulping it down with my dinner.
Would I do another wine tasting? Absolutely. Anytime. I left that afternoon with a bit more knowledge, a few more bottles for my shopping list, and an increased fondness for wine – all positive points if you ask me.
For those wine lovers out there craving a taste of home, head over to The New Zealand Cellar where you can order your favourites or discover some new bottles from their huge selection. If you want some food with your wine, stop into The Providores and Tapa Room for the largest New Zealand wine selection in Europe. And don’t forget to keep an eye out on both those sites for future wine tasting events.