I like to eat and drink. In fact, I would say that I like to eat and drink pretty much more than I like to do anything else in the world and although I certainly wouldn’t class myself as an expert, I do think that I know a decent amount about food. It’s easy to absorb information when eating, cooking and baking is a total obsession in this country. One of my guilty pleasures is to sit eating chocolate, sporadically scribble cooking notes and muse on why Gregg Wallace looks quite so much like a giant egg while watching Masterchef. As I said, I’m no expert but at least I try.
Drinks and more specifically wine occupy a different sphere entirely. I swing wildly in restaurants between two equally embarrassing behaviours. The first is to stare goggle-eyed at the wine list much like Stone age man would stare if presented with a tin opener. The other is to pretend that I actually know a decent amount and therefore inevitably order something that is totally inappropriate. While my arrogant assertions and resulting bad choices often raise a giggle- this applies to men, jobs and general life- I’ve always wanted to know a bit more about a drink which I love almost as much as my family.
Keeping my feelings of wine-inadequacy firmly to myself, I toddled along to a Wine Tasting evening, that The Sussex Wine School were holding, with slightly baited breath. Would I be expected to talk about my (lack of) wine knowledge in front of a room full of strangers? Would they march me down a metaphorical plank because I didn’t know the difference between a Chardonnay and a Chablis? My fears dissipated as soon as I walked into a friendly chatty room and noted the large table spread with nibbles and lots and lots of wine glasses. If a table full of wine glasses doesn’t indicate a good welcome then I really don’t know what does. After some introductions and a certain amount of excitement at learning we would be sampling eight different wines, we met the winemakers and heard about the various regions and methods of production. Far from being a staid and stuffy lecture the knowledgeable speakers were passionate and interesting and the images of sun-strewn vineyards evoked a lovely world where wine, quite literally, rules.
We were given a sheet that detailed the wine we were sampling, the year of production and accompanying tasting notes from Sussex Wine School itself and Foncalieu. Sniffing, aerating and really spending time appreciating the wine was such a new experience. I found that sometimes I couldn’t quite place exactly what my taste buds were so excited by and it would feel almost revelatory to glance down and see ‘honeydew melon’ or ‘a hint of pepper’. So often I drink wine without even glancing at the bottle so I liked the fact that the bottles were passed around the room. I was surprised how often the ‘packaging’ of the wine absolutely complemented the taste that it exuded. Reassuringly and somewhat surprisingly I found that I enjoyed the cheaper wines just as much as the pricier samples. Two that really stood out for me were a 2014 Le Versant Viognier which had a trade price of £7.99 and tasted wonderfully of apricots and peaches and a 2012 Le Lien which has a heftier price tag at £25 a bottle, but was a wonderfully heavy, peppery red and would be the perfect bedfellow for Venison.
This was a tasting night and therefore a perfect introduction to the fascinating world of wine, however Sussex Wine School offer WSET accredited courses and various themed evenings too. Upon hearing they had a Christmas Wine and Food pairing coming up on December 3rd for £35 I realised that, along with the knowledge I had gained about wine that evening, I could gain even more and dazzle my friends at the Christmas meal. Although I think that the tastings and evenings would be a great event for a group of friends, I’m afraid my desire to look like an aficionado next time I order food wins out, and I will be attending alone. So if you see a woman in a restaurant looking annoyingly smug as she surveys the wine list, then chances are that’s me.