I don’t know anything about wine – I’m more of a spirit lover, double malibu & coke kinda gal – but that was all about to change, as I’d been invited along to a red wine tasting evening with *Essex Wine School at Chop Bloc in Chelmsford.
The venue itself was a new feature to the wine school as the class usually takes place at the University. We were taken up to the top floor cocktail bar, and taken to a room just outside the bar. The atmosphere felt relaxing and somewhat rustic – exposed brick walls and looping hanging lights. Charlotte from withlovelottie attended the event with me, and we sat at a table with a ham, cheese and bread spread on. Once a few more couples joined us, the class began. We were taught how to taste wine, properly.
First step, look at the wine. Is it clear? Is it bright? The depth of colour and body of the wine differs between cheaper and dearer ones. If you tip the glass to a 45 degree angle against a white background, you will be able to tell the depth of the wine. Cheaper wines have a watery line, as opposed to dearer wines which are deep in colour throughout.
Second step, swirl. Swirling the wine will add oxygen to the wine.
Third step, smell. From just smelling, you can sniff out the primary, secondary and tertiary scents.
Fourth step, slurp/taste. Take a sip of the wine and inhale with your mouth slightly open. You’ll be able to pick out the flavours and scents of the wine. I almost coughed my wine up first time, takes a little practice… ahem.
We worked our way through 6 different wines: varying from cheap supermarket wines to a dearer wine from a wine store. We learnt where each wine was from, how it was made, the flavours inside it, the price and what foods would be perfect to pair it with. I certainly took a lot away from the class. Did you know that wine kept in oak barrels gives it a vanilla scent?
We did a little group exercise, which involved tiny little bottles of liquid and we had to guess what they were. They were all essences that can be put into wines. My favourite? The cocoa one! I’d love to try a red wine with cocoa in.
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and it was nice to learn something new! The host, Neil Bull, was a fantastic host and certainly knew his stuff. Neil is a life-long wine enthusiast and is one of 500 people in the world to be able to provide level 1, 2 and 3 programmes. The wine school family run courses in 20 other locations in the UK. As well as red wine tasting events, the company also hold champagne, white wine, whisky, gin and many more events!
Neil was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
With global weather changing frequently, does this affect the areas that produce wine? Will it force them to specialise in other varieties?
Global warming is having a big effect on the wine makers. Two areas in particular are being affected. In Champagne they rely on the really cold temperatures of northern France to give their wines a high level of acidity which is an important part of the end product. With the advent of global warming they are actually buying up large parts of Kent and Sussex, where the soil is very similar to that in Champagne, as they think it will become increasingly difficult to grow grapes to the right quality in France. Being even further north the south of England offers an opportunity to grow grapes that have the right levels of acidity.
In Bordeaux they use a traditional blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. However, experts say that the region may be unsuitable for wine-growing by 2050 and the growers are already looking at different grape varieties as a precaution. It could mean the end of this much loved wine in the style that we know. Already the harvest starts about three weeks sooner than it did 100 years ago.
What wines are worth investing in?
As with all investments you should only spend what you can afford to lose, or to drink! The experts suggest that you need to spend a minimum of £10,000 to make the investment worthwhile.
The best investment possibilities are in the great wine of Bordeaux. Bordeaux Grand Cru Classés account for the largest part of the investment grade market. As long as you choose a vintage and provenance correctly then, over time, you are likely to make money. It is mainly down to supply and demand. Bordeaux wines take many years to reach their full potential. So, if you can afford to buy some of the most highly regarded wines each year, store them correctly for at anywhere between 5-20 years you stand a good chance of making a healthy profit.
What have you learnt from running these courses?
I have learnt that there are a lot of people out there who love wine as much as I do. It is also interesting to introduce my guests to different grape varieties and some unusual wines. By studying with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust I tried many different wines and it was this variety that led to my passion.
What do you enjoy most about running the courses? What inspired you to take up hosting them?
The two things I most enjoy are talking about wine and meeting new people and my courses give me the opportunity to do both at the same time. My courses give my guests the chance to try some wines that would never had tried before and it always rewarding to see how much they love them. I formed an interest in wine many years ago. I did not realise how many different grape varieties from which wine is made there were. Once I started looking into it further I became hooked. I love looking at what it is that influences the character of a wine, from the grape variety, location, weather, soil, climate, vinification and maturation there are so many things that can impact on the final product. It is quite fascinating.
Have you been to a wine tasting event before?
*I was invited to the course for free in exchange for a post. All views are my own