Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not Quite a Case of Sour Grapes


 Recently I was invited by some mutual friends to attend a wine tasting at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair. Now this was my first attempt at trying to understand wine as well as my first real introduction into a very exclusive crowd. So here goes with my attempt to explain the day.

Wine tastings have a very mysterious air about them. The layman would see them as pretentious, odd events where people spout the most nonsensical drivel about a drink that seems to have a similar taste across its range, whilst openly spitting in polite company. It is very hard to penetrate the wine community as it is an exclusive and obtuse industry, full of technical knowhow and well trained pallets.

If you don’t know about wine and go to a place where you are greatly outnumbered by wine connoisseurs you will find yourself lost in a sea of grape varieties, subtle tastes and regional nuances. So much so you will feel like you’ve just been told to sit a test about what you’ve learned, whilst being showered with 10 tons of grapes of different varieties. To be fair I felt like I was being pelted with grapes half the time.

What I did manage to pick up was that the Gavi grape is very sour and dry, extra dry Prosecco is sweeter than a brut and that there is a wine called Pecorino (yes, like the cheese). As you can see I barely scraped the surface of what there is to know about different types of wines. I did however, have a crack at trying to spot some of the subtle flavours within the different wines and was actually able to spot them in some cases. For instance I could taste some faint hints of citrus fruit in some bottles although I wasn’t able to spot any of the extreme types of flavours you hear the likes of Oz Clarke prattling on about, so no subtle hints of cut grass or baked cat or such nonsense.

An interesting quality about the wine crowd is that it attracts a lot of older, upper class, tweed wearing sorts. This is especially the case for the journalists who attended, which made me stand out as not only the youngest member of the press but also as probably the least snobbish. These old chaps were pushy and rude ogre-like so-and-sos into the bargain which sometimes brought down the atmosphere of the event. I found it especially unsettling to be around these people as I’d probably be tarred and feathered by these old fools if I so much as gave them the hint that I was a know-nothing outsider, as they lurched about glugging down another glass of red, whilst claiming to be able to taste Celine Dion in a grape variety. All in all it was like being marooned on Michael Winner Island.

Still it was all for free; lunch was thrown in and if given the chance I’d probably go again. It wasn’t all bad and quite honestly I did feel like I picked up some useful information about good wine and wine ranges.

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