Monday, April 12, 2010
Bacchanalia around the world in 80 minutes...
I would like you all to know that I did in fact do things other than just eat desserts while in France... I will confess that most of my activities lead me to sampling pastries, but each day began with a purpose other than only indulging in culinary delights. And that is how I ended up at a wine tasting.
Julie has become fast friends with Mitch; patron of the Cave d'Eymet - lovely person with a vast amount of knowledge that she loves to share with others (and after having visited other wine cellars, I've realized that not everyone is as inviting or lovely as Mitch is). Mitch coordinates a monthly wine-tasting; selecting the grape varieties when they are at their best, which is how we ended up sampling white wines. The theme of the evening was "interesting and 'generally' unknown white grape variations from around the world". Mitch arranged it so that one quiet evening in Eymet I made my way to Argentina, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Chilli, Tenerife and Spain - all thanks to the white grape!
I've never, ever done anything like this before. And at first I thought it would be pretty intimidating; I mean, what do I really know about wine other than I like some and I don't particularly like others? But there I was, surrounded by 23 other people, eager to pour from an unlabeled bottle (it was a blind tasting too boot!), look at the wine, smell the wine and finally taste the wine. What fun!
The first thing I learnt... I am not very good at figuring out the colour... you see, of the 8 wines sampled, I would admit that they all looked "water white", or "pale yellow with a hint of green", or simply "pale yellow". I than remarked on whether or not the wine clung to the sides of the glass when swirled around (this has something to do with tears???)... All in all, this part of sampling is not my strong suit.
Onto the nose or smell of a wine. I really enjoyed the challenge that each and every wine presented... because when you stick your nose in a glass your greeted by either very pleasant, or at times, highly unpleasant scents. For example, I described one wine as "cat piss"... yep. Cat piss. A truly unappealing smelling wine. Another one smelt of a bonfire, smokey, heavy. Far more appealing to cat piss don't you think? Another one brought back memories of Asia - a predominantly lychee aroma rising to greet my nose. But my favourite wine smelt of berries of the forest and honey. What a combo!
Finally onto the third, and in my opinion, most important aspect of a wine tasting; the actual tasting. The greatest lesson I learnt was that wines do get better after a second sip and swirl. Or not. And, just because I found the nose of the wine to be appealing did not mean that my pallet would be equally pleased. It was also neat to determine whether what I smelt with my nose was registered on the tongue - did I actually taste those berries or apples or apricots? Did that wine taste like cat piss (not that I know what that tastes like firsthand)?
Since I was standing across from Julie who was enjoying the wine samples as much as I was, I didn't realize that people were actually spitting out what they were "tasting"... it seems that only Julie and I drank all 8 glasses of wine... in my defense, I drank a LARGE glass of water between each round, and I did ensure that I grabbed several of the offered baguette slices. No drinking on an empty stomach for me!
It was a truly memorable and enjoyable evening; I got to spend time with really interesting people: specially Mitch - who encouraged any of our ideas about the wines, and never made me feel silly for blurting out the first thing that came to mind when smelling or tasting. It was a grand evening!
In case you're wondering... my least favourite wine was the one I described as cat piss... the taste did not improve (and yet, still I didn't spit); it was from Tenerife, the Vita Norte. And my favourite (which was tricky, because I could have taken half of those bottles home and been very happy) was from Spain! Imagine that!!! After my experience in San Sebastian with the horrible wine, I ended up picking a Spanish wine as my top choice! The Bodega Castro Martin an Albarinho grape variety (I'd never even heard of that grape before) was delicious. Sigh. I bought my bottle and am looking forward to serving it as an aperitif... with the right amount of bite and a slight bubble sensation at the end; it has the perfect acidic balance in my estimation... and it smelt great too!
Cheers to a super evening! Oh... and in the spirit of full disclosure... I did end up having a divine dessert afterward... a raspberry tiramisu...the perfect way to end this evening :0)