For those of you who don’t speak Italian (me included!) this means ‘wine tasting’…
Three weeks ago, interested in learning a bit about how to taste wine and how to talk about it properly, I Googled ‘wine tasting courses in London’. Here’s what I found in Havering College’s prospectus:
‘Italian Wine Tasting Fee £25.00
Virtually travel around the major wine regions of Italy with an experienced guide who will introduce you to the unique wines produced in these areas. You will also learn the specialist vocabulary used when describing flavour, colour and scent of wine.
19 February 2011 Sat 1:00-4:00pm
Bower Park-day BD64503’
So, on Saturday the 19th February, off went me, my sister Sarah, and my friend Ella, to Bower Park School (luckily Sarah’s boyfriend offered to drive us there and pick us up- don’t drink and drive!)
On arrival, we were introduced to Lisa, a teacher of Italian at Havering College, and fully- fledged Italian wine lover, given that she had spent time at various vineyards in Tuscany (jealous much!). She started the class talking a bit about the history and geography of Italy and quizzing us on our Italian grape knowledge (mine was appalling by the way) and we did begin to feel a bit like we were back at school! Having said that, it did turn out to be pretty interesting stuff!
When it came to the wine tasting we were first told how to do it properly;
1. LOOK- What colour is it? Are there any bubbles? Does it leave traces (‘legs’) on the side of the glass when you swirl it?
2. SMELL- Give it a swirl and get your nose right in the glass (very glamorous!)
3. TASTE- Take a nice big sip; first roll it over your tongue then draw in some air through pursed lips to get the flavours right to the back of your throat. After spitting it out, consider the taste it leaves- does it linger? Is it acidic?
After this we were introduced to a selection of 5 Italian wines; one Prosecco, two white wines and two red wines. Armed with our notes from the lesson, lists of wine terms (did you know that ‘flabby’ is used as a term for describing wine?!), bread sticks to soak up any sips that we didn’t manage to spit out, and a very knowledgeable teacher, we enthusiastically began…
Prosecco- Italian sparkling wine
1. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Brut
– From the Veneto region of Northern Italy.
– DOC certified- (Denominazione Origine Controllata) this means that the wine has been produced within the specified region using a set method, and meeting a set standard. If you ever see DOCG on a bottle of Italian wine it means that it has passed even higher standards to reach a quality standard (so lucky you).
– VERDICT- this wine was delicious; pale and sparkling with a fragrant, fruity smell and a zesty taste of elderflower and citrus fruits.
– Priced at around £11 a bottle from Tesco Wine this is slightly on the costly side but excellent for special occasions (you would have to spend a lot more on a bottle of champagne after all)
2. Ogio Pinot Grigio 2009
– From Venice.
– IGT certified- (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) this means that foreign grape varieties have been added to produce this wine for a mass audience.
– VERDICT- somewhat tangy but a touch on the acidic side. With a bland, watery aftertaste the promises of ‘fresh lemon and lime’ on the bottle are not fulfilled to their potential.
– At £9.99 a bottle unless you can get it on offer, this is one to be missed… you can get a lot better for a lot less!
3. Canti Pinot Grigio 2010
– Another from the Veneto region.
– VERDICT- this was a lot more pleasant that the Ogio; pale in colour, and dry with a light, woody fragrance. While the acidity comes through in the aftertaste there are wonderful hints of pear to cut through.
– I couldn’t find a price for the 2010 variety online, but from Tesco wine you can get a case of 6 of the 2007 variety at just £22.80 reduced from £34.14 (that’s 33% off!)
4. Inycon Sicilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
– VERDICT- a deep garnet red with a spicy, hazelnut scent and peppery velvet finish on the taste. Full bodied without being aggressive or meaty.
– A little on the pricey side at around £8.50 a bottle, and you can get just as nice a Cabernet Sauvignon for less, but it won’t disappoint.
5. Piccini Chianti Reserva 2007
– According to our teacher, this DOCG certified Reserva Chianti from Tuscany was produced in a ‘good year’.
– VERDICT- almost amber red in colour with toasted, earthy flavours of raisins in the smell, however it seemed to fall apart in the mouth. Whilst it is peppery and pleasant, this Chianti, produced from the Sangiovese grape, lacks structure and leaves a slightly chalky aftertaste.
– At just under £10 a bottle if you buy a case of 6, this Chianti doesn’t come cheap I’m afraid and, at 13.5% alcohol, I’d go easy on the volume you consume.
I would like to add that wine tasting often comes down to personal preference and subjectivity so why not have a go yourself? Here are just a few of the commonly used wine terms to get you going:
Jammy (my sister’s favourite)