This week, I went to my first tutored wine tasting. I’ve been to a few informal ones before – big wine shows and the like, where the overriding feeling is that the supplier is trying to get you to make a purchase. So your opinion is important, but perhaps less analysed.
Not this time though.
Here I was, with my housemate Steve, in the private dining room of a restaurant on Savile Row, with 16 or so other people. And we were hanging on the words of the Head Sommelier of this place. Here’s a guy whose whole professional existence is based on wine – and he’s testing us! And he’s going to ask our opinion in front of a load of other people who have really great knowledge and we’re going to look like a pair of idiots who don’t know anything and everyone is going to scoff and guffaw because that’s what wine people do! Panic!
Except it’s nothing like that.
We walked in and sat in the nearest pair of seats. And immediately felt at ease. Michael, the Sommelier, has put together a lovely pack for each person, explaning the region we’re tasting tonight (Umbria, in Italy) and a few notes on each of the 5 wines, along with space for our own impressions. We sit between two lovely couples who have been to these tastings before; they are chatty, and tell us that they are relatively new to this sort of tasting. Michael is charming and welcoming.
Something about the whole experience feels correct. We are taught, or reminded, how to taste, the things to look for, the kind of smells that Michael picks out, and the best way to appreciate wine. The two whites (both from Orvieto) are excellent, and there’s a genuine thrill when he has to decant the last of the three reds.
One of the overriding feelings I get about this evening, aside from how great the wine tastes (Michael did a great job), is how relaxed it all is. No opinion is laughed at, no-one tries to convince you that you’re wrong because you’re smelling or tasting something different to them. Michael loves what he does and this joy comes out in the evening. He is, in turn, inquisitive, informative, serious, jovial and always laid back. I came expecting a bit of a lecture. Yet without having received one, I feel like I’ve learnt loads. And the people we sit with are just as enthused. This isn’t about becoming a wine snob. It’s about taking a bit of time to enjoy and educate ourselves about what we’re putting into our bodies. And it’s fabulous.
Sartoria, part of D&D London, are running these tastings once a month. And they’ve picked up at least 2 more fans in March. They’re just one of numerous places in London and around the UK running tastings like this. And if you’ve any interest in wine I’d advise you to go to at least one a year. A vast cross section of society does do this. And from what I understand, very few come away feeling dissatisfied.