Sunday, 10 January 2016

An Introduction To Wine @ Hotel Du Vin, Poole

Despite the howling winds and stormy weather that blew us into Poole's Old Town last night, we were quickly warmed by the Head Sommelier of Hotel Du Vin ahead of our evenings wine tasting.

Having lived a stones through from the Langhe and Barolo wine regions, and holidayed in Chianti town, it's somewhat surprising I've never been to a proper wine tasting before. I've learned bits and pieces along the way, asking to squish grapes where I can, but nothing compares to one-on-one time with a pro and a few good bottles of vino with friends.

So as a gift this Christmas, Mark arranged a wine tasting and dinner with friends at the perfectly named Hotel Du Vin in Poole.

The Wine Tasting Room

After drying off we were invited to the tasting room and our lesson began. In front of us were 4 small glasses of wine. The glasses, we were told, were those used by professional tasters, and designed to trap the aromas of the wine in the glass. Some more high-end tasters will even supply differently shaped glasses depending on the wine being tasted to maintain perfect sipping, swilling and spitting conditions; wine after all is a £100 million industry in the UK alone.

Our first wine was Chablis. Chablis comes from a specific area in Burgundy, France and is made using the Chardonnay grape. Our sommelier asked us to smell the wine, as he introduced the flavours or apple and citrus before we sipped. During the tasting we were encouraged to chew the wine, as it's the side of the tongue which detects the acidity of the wine. It was crisp, dry and delicious.

Following was a Californian Chardonnay, which immediately was more golden in colour with scents of vanilla. It's here we were introduced to oak. The oak barrels used in wine making is what delivers the subtle differences and complexities to different wines, as the wood and degree of toasting combine with the wine inside. This chardonnay was a firm favourite with our group!

Our wines for the night

After finishing the white selection we moved on to the reds, starting with a French Pinot Noir. It was young and playful with good level of clarity, which is often a sign of its youth. Age in wine is not always a good thing; depending on the grapes used some wines are best at a younger age to get the right balance of flavours before oxidation spoils the bottle. A vintage wine, is not necessarily old, but refers to wines that have been produced from perfect conditions, and are as such hard to come by. Reserva, historically for Rioja wines, does refer to age though...

"Rioja spends less than a year in oak barrels. Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle." Wiki

New World wines are generally produced in the Southern Hemisphere, California and the emerging Asian markets. Old World wines are European. Our final wine was a new world wine from Argentina; a Malbec which Argentina produces a lot of. This wine was older and full bodied with plum notes. It had a higher dose of tannins; a natural chemical created by the natural products used to make wine (grape skins, seeds and oak). Over time this may form into natural sediment and found at the bottom of the bottle, but it's completely natural and safe to drink. Sediment does not mean that a bottle has "corked" which instead refers to wine that has been contaminated by cork taint and has a smell of mould and damp.

Great wines & great friends

Free from corked wines here, we were now at the end of our introduction to wine, with our heads full of new knowledge, questions and (I admit) a little post-wine fuzziness. We finished the evening with dinner and a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone, knowing just a little more about the fascinating world of wine!