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- Wine Tasting in and around London
Wine Tasting in and around London
What to look for when tasting wine, where you can participate in wine tasting in the Capital and where to go to find some real English wines...
What should you look and taste for in a wine?
The origins of wine tasting are as ancient as its production. However, modern, professional wine tasters (sommeliers for example, or buyers for retailers) generally use formal, wine-tasting terminology to describe the range of different flavours, aromas and general characteristics of a wine. Though there are professionals in the industry, anyone can take part in more informal wine tastings where an expert will guide you and explain the terminology, but apply a less analytical process for a more general, personal appreciation.
Whether at a professional or informal wine tasting, the four recognised stages to wine tasting are generally:
of the wine (colour..)
"in glass" - the smell of the wine (adjectives often used to describe the wine’s fragrance are ‘fruity’, ‘floral’, ‘spicy’, ‘woody’, ‘vegetal’, ‘earthy’ etc.)
• "in mouth" sensations
; the "texture" of the wine; its "body" and its "balance"
or "finish" - How balanced is the wine when it comes to sweetness, acidity, fruit, or alcohol?
These four stages are then combined in order to establish the complexity and character of a wine: for example, what is the wine’s potential? Is it suitable for aging? What are the possible faults of the wine? and so on..
How to taste wine
Appearance: Study the colour against a well-lit service. With maturity, white wines tend to darken while with red wines, the general colour depends on the grape variety, regardless of the age of the wine. When it comes to more mature wines, the rim always is a good indication of age since more mature wines develop a "bricky" or "chestnut" rim.
Fragrance: Swirl the wine in the glass to cause the wine release more of its aromas and then smell the wine. The different smells are generally categorised by fruity, floral, spicy, vegetal, earthy and woody. The smell of the wine will be an indicator of what tastes you will experience later.
Taste: The next step is to take a generous sip - roll the wine around in your mouth. To savor a wine you have to hold it in the mouth for a few seconds, to saturate the taste buds. Then you allow the wine to pass slowly through the mouth. Think about the wine’s structure and it's texture: is it rough or smooth? is it light or full? Is the wine well-balanced insofar as the combination of sweetness, acidity, fruit, alcohol and tannin (in red wine only) is concerned?
Order of tasting: Heavy wines as well as sweet wines can dominate lighter wines and therefore influence the taster's assessment of those wines. That’s why wines should be tasted in the following order: sparkling wines, light whites, heavy whites, followed by rose wines, light reds, and then the heavy reds finally followed by sweet wines.
You will have to determine which type of wine it is from in this order by appearance and smell alone (keep in mind that heavy wines will be deeper in color and they’ll also smell more intense). An indicator for sweet wines is that, since they are denser, they will leave thick streaks (called legs) down the inside of the glass, when you swirl it.
To sound like you have it all sussed, use these common sensory descriptions of popular wines when out and about!
: blackcurrants, eucalyptus, chocolate, tobacco
:black cherry, plums, tomato
: tobacco, black/white pepper, blackberry, smoke
: black cherry, pepper, mixed spices, mint
Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris)
: white peach, pear, apricot
: apple, honey, citrus, musk
: citrus fruit, peach, honey
: lime, gooseberry, grass, grapefruit, passionfruit, aparagus
Incase you're unsure as to where to start, we've compiled a list of places that offer wine-tasting courses, sessions and experiences that you can try.
LONDON WINE ACADEMY
6 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5NA
The London Wine Academy offers wine education brought to you by a small team of wine experts. The friendly, informal style makes all of the courses and events enjoyable as well as informative. The London Wine Academy people specialize in wine courses and workshops, as well as wine events or staff training service.
There are all sorts of different courses, from one day courses to six week courses to suit your budget as well as your requirements, for private and corporate entertainment alike.
One-day workshops generally take place on weekends. There are more specialised workshops such as the Burgundy, Bordeaux or Champagne Workshops. These workshops explore a region or subject in-depth and they include a 2 or 3 course lunch with food and wine matching being a key theme.
No.1 Bank End, London, SE1 9BU
Perhaps the most well-known wine experience centre in London, Vinopolis Wine Tastings and Wine Courses are available to smaller groups and individuals; each session of wine tasting includes six selected wines and is overseen by a Vinopolis expert. Vinopolis has a bar, restaurant and shop attached for anyone really wanting to make a day (or night!) of it. Courses start at around £35 per person.
Thirty-Fifty offer wine tasting sessions and mini-courses which can be attended as single evening classes or a three week course. While having fun you’ll learn the important facts; that’ll help you maximise your enjoyment of wine. Prices start at around £25 per session.
They offer several different types of wine tastings and from sessions that are just meant to be fun to more educational tastings. They also run regular wine courses in London that anyone can attend and they work with a number of venues.
HARRISON, TATE WINE ASSOCIATES
Sauvignon House, 1 Burnaby Crescent, London W4 3LH
Harrison, Tate offer events for Team Building, Corporate Hospitality (up to forty or fifty guests with most of these events organised midweek in and around London; but weekend courses are also available.) Educational Tastings (given by Harrison, Tate’s sister company, Better Tasting. Courses are suitable for suitable for amateurs as well as wine trade professionals. Courses available include ‘Tasting anatomy & physiology’, ‘Recognising faults in wine’ and ‘Wine constituents - understanding the key components of wine’.
THE WINE ADVENTURE
West Lodge Farm, Low Road, Easton, Norwich, Norfolk NR9 5EN
The Wine Adventure offer's a wide range of different events, whether it’s a wine-tasting on its own or a pre dinner tasting session, during dinner/Lunch activities, client entertaining, team building, product or office launches, press events, staff reward, or even your Christmas or Summer party.
West End Lane, Esher, Surrey, KT10 8LA
Champagne Tuesdays is based in West London and offers wine tasting sessions for private groups at your home. These tastings are a brilliant idea for an evening with friends, dinner parties etc. – they’re not only fun but also an easy way to learn about wine in an informal setting.
THE FINE WINE EXPERIENCE
47 Brodrick Grove London SE2 0SR
Whether it’s a dinner party, birthday party or 'weekend of fun'? the fine Wine Experience team will work with you, maybe organise the perfect wines to match a special meal or how about a Champagne tasting to kick things off?
They also come to your office, or arrange a venue for you, even with catering if that’s what you’re looking for. Price starts from £25 (including VAT; per person); that price includes the wines provided, glasses, materials and wine speaker. For canapés you usually pay an additional £10-15 per person.
SNIFF AND SPIT
Sniff and Spit offer wine tastings for most occasions and are fully mobile so you can host your event almost anywhere! Team building, client entertaining, and annual office parties are just some events that they have taken part in in the past.
For a list of London wine-related events please visit www.localwineevents.com
Vineyards in England and Wales
Today, most styles of wine are produced in England ranging from some excellent sparkling wines to still whites, rosés, reds and dessert wines.
Typically, English still wine is white, aromatic, delicate and fruity, clean and fresh. Well–known and award-winning wines are produced by RidgeView, Nyetimber and Chapel Down and many other companies.
Perhaps surprisingly, England and Wales are now home to nearly four hundred commercial vineyards covering approximately 2000 acres of land. Less surprising is that nearly all of these vineyards are in the southern half of England and Wales with most of them being small, which means no more than 5 acres), many as small as 1 acre or even less. Only a small number of vineyards exceed 25 acres and just a handful 50 acres most in the Denby, Dorking and Surrey areas.
If you’d like to visit a vineyard, it’s usually best to check beforehand whether they will be open, especially since some of them only accept visitors by prior arrangement. During the English Wine Week, that takes place every May, many vineyards are open for visitors and also have events and special offers on.
Biddenden: established by the Barnes family in 1969, mostly German wine varieties are grown such as Ortega, Bacchus, Huxelrebe, Schönburger or Reichensteiner.
Bookers: one of England’s oldest vineyards. They began planting in 1973; now they produce White and Red Still wines, plus White and Rosé Sparkling.
Camel Valley: an area in Cornwall near the well-known Camel river; famous for award-winning, world-class wines
Denbies: situated near Surrey Hills, Denbies is one of the largest privately owned vineyards in Europe. They’ve got a chateau-style visitor centre that offers not only excellent facilities but also "Wine Experience" tours throughout the year.
Frome Valley: vineyards set in the idyllic English countryside that produce a wide range of white wines from dry to medium sweet.
Lamberhurst: situated in the heart of the Kent countryside; only a short drive south of Royal Tunbridge Wells. All year around, they offer free wine tastings.
Leventhorpe: the most northerly commercial vineyard; established in 1985
Painshill Park: a former 18th century’s great landscape parks. At Painshill Park, they produce three wines, sparkling, rose and a dry white wine.
RidgeView: this estate produces a wide range of highest quality sparkling wine and Champagne varieties.
Sharpham: the production includes classic English wines; they employ New World as well as traditional techniques.
Tenterden encompasses 25 acres of land where wines under the Chapel Down brand are made.
Three Choirs: now one of Gloucestershire's main attractions, Three Choirs is England's leading and most awarded, single estate vineyard.
Wickham: at Wickam they offer audio tours around the vineyard. You can listen to the history of English Wine, the development of the vineyard and the work which takes place in order to produce high quality wines..
For more information you can check the website of English Wine Producers