So what do YOU know about wine?  I do not ask which grape you have a preference for, whether you opt for an Italian over a New Zealander or even if you can be rather thrifty when browsing the aisles of your local supermarket.  No, no, these are all factors of personal choice, not about an education.  What I am curious to know is if you are genuinely aware of what you are about to swill around your mouth when the wine (you’re so often elected to choose) arrives at the table.  The waiter asks the important question of who would like to ‘taste’ it.  You nod in a knowledgeable way and when the beverage splashes into your glass, you whirl it around with your nose perched over the rim, inhaling in the aroma to then take a lingering swig, allowing the various notes to erupt around your tongue as you attempt to detect the flavours that make it so intrinsically unique.  Thankfully, it is a fine choice and one that your companions conclude was a worthy accompaniment to the meal.

Champagne & Sparkling Party

But this seems merely an ‘act’ so many of us play when drinking wine.  Merely hours later, less care is taken when deciding on the ‘vintage’ (that is the year it was produced to you or I) as well as the grape.  A bottle priced at £100 quite usually tastes as incredible as a bottle at the lower end of the scale.  This is the problem with alcohol; our elation at understanding these varying concoctions is superseded eventually by its potency which ultimately leads to our wobbly decline.  Such is the sensation I am experiencing now as I write this, post a long wine-tasting afternoon which inevitably led to more wine whilst seeking solid sustenance (Thank you Agata).  My acceptance to attend the 13th Annual Wine-Tasting held by Enotria (the UK’s leading specialist wine wholesaler I am informed) at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea was partly for educational reasons (since assisting at a coveted Butchers in Stoke Newington with their free-range fodder & superb wine-room, an informed opinion is useful when a customer questions which bottle to pair with their sirloin) as well as a welcome alternative distraction to my online existence.  

A Serious Business

When I ponder my own understanding of wine, it is indeed varied and gained through diverse and incidental means.  From my age-restricted liberation, I entered into purchasing wines for home consumption based on simple personal enjoyment, leaning towards South American produce versus European.  Through further hospitality related work & attending dinners with more senior guests who imparted further trivia on the subject of wine, I absorbed more and more information on its complexities, waiting patiently for consumption within their 75cl containers.  From time spent on the Continent I visited wine regions in Hungary, Italy & France, witnessing enormous steel vats producing table wine for religious communities in Rome to family day-trips focused on redeeming barrel-born charmers harvested from mineral rich soils in Eger.  One of my previous housemates was a Sommelier and I always remember admiring his  prized empty bottle of an aged Amarone sitting on a ledge.  Many a bonding moment has been shared with a bottle of fine wine and each of them, as well as inspiring a great memory, also erased a bad one.  Such is the love affair we have with this liquid pleasure.  Therefore I felt from my background I had a well-rounded idea of its ancient enchantment (with first records of wine-production dating back to 6000BC it’s certainly obsessive) and was looking to further my knowledge of wine producers, as well as its various guises.

The Producers

Attending a large scale wine tasting is no mean feat; 10 rooms brimming with attendees and each gallery dedicated to a region in this wonderful world, with a male-dominant presence adding a background of baritone chatter .  You were greeted with the prospect of lunch and coffee however since I had already eaten, I made my way immediately to the country I have most familiarity in testing their vines; Italy.  A splendid range and I not only fell in love with an Amarone, I was entirely enamoured with a range of 3 Vintage-style bottles from a producer, who recreated the technique from the 1920s to release these divine choices.  In particular from this collection, I was very taken by a 2011 Soave and spent most of my remaining hours returning back to the table (compliments to the clientele from the Bertoni representative also seemed to flow with the wine).  It is important to note that the sheer number of producers to choose from in my mini guidebook was possibly unachievable in an afternoon, let alone a day.  Over a 100 choices, varying from Sherry to Champagne and admittedly I am not particularly educated in use of Spittoon, especially when the glasses poured for a taste were always at least a mouthful.  My loathing of wastage was not suited to the occasion either and this only bent my judgement on further bottles to lean more favourably based upon my intake.

Sartori Amarone

Prosecco & Champagne

I continued my journey through to Spain and Portugal as well as some sparkling varieties, mainly for a range of delicious Prosecco supplied by Ruggeri.  My afternoon was in good company though, as Agata (recently certified in wine-education) was able to guide me to at least follow a logical method of tasting, beginning with whites, then reds to ultimately end with sweeter options (this ‘plan’ was subject to eventual change of course).

Based on my ticking and miniscule scribbling, I think it only fair to document the wines I tasted and particularly enjoyed.  As misfortune would have it, there is never enough time or stamina to be able to fully ingratiate oneself with such a wonderful collective however I can at least glow and purr excitedly about these delicious offerings (there were many more dear readers, but one only has so much patience to both write and sip without lacking attention in one).  

So next time you order a wine, take some time to let the taste capture your creativity and permit it to invoke all possible adjectives based on the care and attention the producer took to provide its character.  Embrace the experience and try to remember the impression it creates, as this will be one of many that continues this eternal love affair we have with wine.

Amarone Classico 2004
Valpolicella Ripasso Villa Novare 2010
Producer: BERTANI, Vitaliano Tirrito
This was an Amarone that I kept going back for (in addition to the Soave).  Like an old friend you never tire of spending time with, it stole the show.  The Valpolicella was quite impressionable too and its intensity does not reduce its capability to be drunk. Copiously.
Amarone Classico Corte Bra’ 2007
Producer: SARTORI, Enrico Olivieri
Region: VENETO
This was the Amarone I fell in love with at first sip; rich and bursting with flavour, splendidly smooth to the last drop.  Gorgeous.
Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2008
Producer: MAZZEI, Carina Falcone
An excellent Chianti which was dry but delicious.  Will benefit from being left to breathe before being smothered.
Soave, 2011
Producer: BERTANI, Vitaliano Tirrito
Region: VENETO
All I can say is this was the most captivating white I have tasted in a while.  Not yet listed on their site (although please check.  Again and again), it was released at the tasting and my OH my it will astound you.
Puiattino, Pinot Grigio IGT 2011
Producer: PUIATTI, Giovanni Puiatti
Fresh and crisp, it was a dry white with honey-like richness that will commence any feast in style.
Cometa IGT Sicilia 2011
Producer: PLANETA, Francesco Planeta
A commanding label attracted me initially and I am glad I succumbed. Peachy notes made it entirely glug-worthy, with a lot of character to boot.
Riserva Giustino Bisol 2011 
Producer: RUGGERI, Isabella Bisol
A distinguished Prosecco; musky in odour like a room with heavily closed curtains, that when opened up produces a startling orchard-like flavour and bubbling acidity.
Planeta Cometa
Blanc de Blancs 2006
Producer: CHAMPAGNE JACQUART, Patrick Spanti & Rob Whitaker
A wonderful champagne that I had not yet tried; excellently sourced from a single grape it was elegant and of fine pedigree.  I could have easily whipped the bottle away if the gloved hands pouring it were not so nearby.
Tormentoso Pinotage 2012
Tormentoso Mourvedre 2010
Producer: MAN VINTNERS, Matthew Cooke
The Pinotage was oaked for 12 months which seems the right length for my preference.  The Mourvedre was a rich, powerful ‘meaty’ wine which would go well with game dishes and strong cheese.
Tormentoso Chenin Blanc 2012
Producer: MAN VINTNERS, Matthew Cooke
100% Chenin Blanc, this was a delicious white; fresh, fragrant, like breathing in a field of flowers mixed with juicy peaches.  Highly recommend.
Tormentoso Wines
Malbec, 2011
A fierce Malbec, very much the red wine of choice and this would be a fine example.
Torrontes, 2011
Region: SALTA
Utterly drinkable and zesty aromatic taste that refreshes the senses from the mineral-soil from whence it came.  I liked this white, and yes, so much so it’s now available at MeatN16.
Cop de Ma Priorat 2010
Cop de Ma Priorat Seleccion 2007
Producer: VINIS CATALONIA, Oscar Ruiz
The 2010 was gentle at first taste, then seized me quite passionately!  I was quite taken with this year.  As for the 2007, it was also empowering although more oaky due to its age.
El Mago Organic Garnacha (DO Terra Alta) 2011
Producer: MASSARD, Franck Massard
A red I was pleased to meet; silky, playful and easy to pair with both white & red meats.
Viña Cerrada Rioja Crianza 2008
Producer: PRINCIPE DE VIANA, Luis Marculeta
Region: RIOJA
I particularly enjoyed this red.  There was a Reserva a year older, however this was infinitely more superior to me; currants, depth and an intensity I expect from a good Rioja.
Campo Nuevo Viura 2011
Producer: PRINCIPE DE VIANA, Luis Marculeta
Unusually tropical on the palate (banana/pineapple with notes of lime), very refreshing.
Limousin Riserva Rueda 2011
Producer: Marqués de Riscal
Region: REUDA
Delicious; Golden & lightly sweet, a pleasure to drink from opening to end.
Spanish Delights