Looking at the family calendar this morning, it occurred to me that quite a few of the social events, marked neatly with a purple ‘sharpie’, are tasting events.
Which got me thinking about what makes me (for ‘tis I who make all the bookings) choose certain events over others. With so much choice (and my god, it seems every local wine shop offers tastings at the moment – which is, of course, brilliant!) – I sometimes feel I may be using a scattergun approach, wanting to try everything, now!!!
Well, not quite – but I wonder how you decide which tastings to book (and I don’t just mean TWS events)? Is it just a grape or region you’re interested in that motivates you, or do other factors come into it? Or maybe it’s the opposite- maybe there’s not much going where you are, and it takes a serious effort to attend any at all?
My preference is usually for more focused, comparative type tastings where for example, you might taste a broader range of wines but from a specific region or grape. It might be Aussie shiraz or Beaujolais Crus but I find the focus and comparative nature helps pick out specific producers or sub-regions to buy. I find the larger walk up tastings where there is a big diversity of wines on offer a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop. I can see why they work for finding new grapes/styles, but having tasted widely and knowing my palate better, I find the more focused tastings better.
Saying that, the three currently in my diary are all broader tastings…
A gathering of Cambridge wine merchants, hosted by Mark Anstead from the Cambridgeshire Wine School here. Mark took me through my WSET L2 & L3 and it should be a great event.
3 Wine Men Cambridge event. TWS are exhibiting, so may well get to meet @Ewan et al
TWS press tasting at the end of Sept
If any other community members are planning to attend any of these then let me know and we can meet up and compare notes
I should have added that in terms of which I will choose in future, this is, sadly, largely determined by what is on offer where I can get at it. Which, whilst I’m at home in the Highlands, is really not a lot!
I think that’s how I feel sometimes - I am that kid in the sweet shop, enjoying the breadth of grapes, regions and styles on offer in the walk-around tastings. But I wonder if this is something to do with - as you say- a step in the general journey of palate refining?
Perhaps once one reaches that stage, it’s the comparative tastings that appeal more? I seem to forever move between the wanting to ‘home in’ on the varietals I like and enjoy, or producers I trust and want to try more of, to wanting ‘new discoveries’, which broader tastings provide.
The other deciding factor for me is the enjoyment of food and wine matching. So I really enjoy tastings where both are explored side-by-side.
Sadly since moving up here that applies, and what happens the WS decide to have a tasting in Norwich and we are away sods law, this area is a bit of a black hole for wine tasting, and much else !, when in Suffolk/Essex no problems and of course London was not out of reach, some very good ones in Trinity Square.
So my calendar is a total blank.
I can get to Liverpool or Chester easily without driving, but events have been sparse, which is a shame since they’re both great venues, particularly Lutyens crypt in Liverpool. They have a Whiskey festival every September and I’ve built of quite a collection of glasses.
What I will say is that what we lose in quantity we gain in quality. The Burgundy grower tasting was fantastic, the Rhone one was good too. The fine wine affair in October should be good hopefully. I appreciate there isn’t the demand of London, but I hope the WS view these tastings as a bit of wine “evangelism” - members do tend to bring along a partner, friend or relative, and even for existing members there’s the opportunity to broaden horizons.
I think you are extremely lucky where you live @Inbar. Tastings are pretty much few and far between in the North East too. There are literally a “couple” of wine stores who on occasion run tastings. Then there are the TWS tastings which come around on average once per year. There are a number of small trade ones which I try and get to but other than that I’m afraid that’s it.
I hope my question didn’t come across as me being smug! It really wasn’t meant this way - just a surprise, I suppose. And naivety too, it seems.
I guess what one knows/used to seems the ‘normal’… But of course, that’s often how delusions start!
The only place I ever lived in in the UK was, and is, Brighton - so perhaps I’m taking the proximity to London, not to mention the varied stuff available in Brighton & Hove, as the norm.
I must confess, though, that it does surprise me that such great and diverse cities such as Bristol or Newcastle don’t have more on offer…?
Here in the north-east midlands, I do rely on the TWS tastings as the basis for my wine exploration alongside the Enomatic at my local-ish wine shop (not accessible by public transport though).
There is usually one or sometimes two TWS events a year in Nottingham and I’ve also made it to Sheffield and Birmingham on occasion, but this always means a half day holiday and both bus and train travel.
The two wine shops within 15 miles do hold their own tastings, but public transport can be a major problem.
Regarding the ‘theme’ of an event, I do prefer a focus on region, producer or grape to the ‘Here’s all we sell’ approach, which is why I regard the TWS tastings as being so relevant and valuable.
I would go to more if they existed - currently have one planned for October and another hopefully in November. I feel that I do alright and sympathise with anyone at the ‘edges’ or deep in the countryside who can’t manage to experience such useful ways of widening their experience.
When you live in Swansea, you factor in at least 1 night’s hotel for anything east of Bristol, be it theatre trips, airport arrivals/departures, weddings funerals & christenings or tastings (or anything at all involving wine outside a reasonably-priced taxi ride from home). So I’m so pleased you’re coming back here in December!
TWS come to Bristol probably once a year. A local wine merchant holds two big tasting events a year, other than that that’s about it. I am soon moving to Cornwall so I imagine my options will be quite drastically limited!
I am surprised not to see mentions of wine clubs, formal or informal. These have always been the tastings I have gone to most frequently (London and St Albans) although merchant tastings and enomatics in some places (TWS, Sampler…) are also helpful. There was talk a few months ago of trying to set up a guide to clubs for the Community. Clubs isn’t always accurate, but is a start.
@Alchemist. There is indeed one in Clifton that advertised for more members in one of the TWS mailings. I contacted the advertised contact but never got a reply. TBH I could have followed that up but as we are in the process of moving away I didn’t.
Revisiting this topic, as just got back from really enjoyable two hours’ visit to the Albourne Estate in West Sussex. Only 25 minutes drive away from home, and yet felt like another world…
Very cloudy today, so the vineyard looked particularly English…
The tour was lead by the wine maker Alison Nightingale, a particularly charming lady. It’s a fairly small scale operation, with first vintage in 2013, but already I think showing real promise. They make both still and sparkling using only their own grapes.
This summer was - as we all know- an excellent one, and she believes the crop size will be their largest yet. Here is some Chardonnay doing its thing (apparently they use clones from Champagne as well as Burgundy):
The tasting included three examples: their delicious 2014 Blanc de Blanc - which was surprisingly good, with all the autolytic notes you’d expect- some pastry, baked apple plus a touch of fresh ripe pear. Acidity was certainly present and lively, but very well balanced - no battery acid here. We were both impressed!
Next was a white blend of slightly oaked Ortega and Chardonnay. The nose was better than the palate. Very aromatic, with honeyed notes, but lacking in fruit somewhat, with a fairly short finish. The last was the real surprise- and absolutely delicious Vermouth, which even my other half (who has a real dislike of Vermouth) very much enjoyed. If you come across it - give it a go. It would make an excellent base to Negroni or a nice alternative to Gin and Tonic. Though it was great neat.