I’m getting blackcurrant


I attended my first wine tasting on Sunday. At a good friend’s house, seven of us sat down and sniffing, sipping and swishing Châteauneuf du Pape in our glasses.


I have never been one for really analysing wine. To me, a good wine is something to be drunk (and also to be drunk on), not something to analyse, grade and describe in a thousand words. My response to wine has usually been one of either “I like it”, “It tastes like **expletive deleted**” or merely “It’s okay”.


So at restaurants I would usually take a single sniff and then a great big gulp. If it went down smoothly and left a nice aftertaste (known as a ‘finish’ to wine experts) then I would take a few more, before asking for a refill. If not, I would just finish what I had in the glass and then order a coke. 


But here I was with wine enthusiasts trying out these illustrious wines that tickled the palate and danced on my tongue and I too started swirling my wine around in my glass and waxing lyrical about the flavour and aroma. Before, I would have said “Hmm, it smells really nice”, but now I actually said the words “I’m getting blackcurrant”, “Smoky and robust” and “Beautiful bouquet”.


The conversation went round the table and people threw in their two cents. It sounded a little like a random selection of adjectives (spicy, earthy, oaky, smoky) but it made sense, even before the third glass.


It isn’t until you take part in a tasting that you realise that the critics aren’t just spouting any old rubbish (well, most of them probably aren’t anyway).


We tried a handful of venerable wines from Châteauneuf, the area just north of Avignon in the Provence, which produces the best known and highest rated Côtes du Rhône wines. They were all exceptional, and it seemed a waste not to drink every last drop. But most of us had to drive some distance to get back home, so we had to pour away anything that was left in our glass after we had tried and commented on the wine.


One of my favourites was a young, crisp and fruity red. I said it was very pleasant and had a more accessible balance of flavours. Another guest said that it was a wine “for girls”, perhaps implying that I resemble a girl (one with a goatee, perhaps?) or that girls don’t know their wine or both. I’m not sure.


Professional wine tasters actually spit the wine out, which sounds like a horribly unpleasant and wasteful thing to do. Also, when wine is left over after a tasting, some wine connoisseurs believe that the decanted wine should be thrown away, as the taste is damaged irreparably if it is kept for more than a few hours. To them I say “Give it to me. I will gladly take your untouched wine. I will drink it happily. And what I cannot drink I will cook with. Have you tried my stewed lamb medallions in merlot and morel sauce? No? Well, you’re invited.  You bring the wine!” 

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