Wine Tasting 101 - A Short Guide for First Timers

Wine Tasting 101 - A Short Guide for First Timers

So, you've tried a few wines, you found a few you like and few you don't. You've moved on from the supermarket to your friendly independent wine merchants (yoohoo!) and have started to explore a whole new world of wine. But how do you really start to learn about the wine in front of you when it comes to making good choices?

We're the first to admit that choosing wine can be a minefield. Imagine, if you will, putting yourself in our shoes when it comes to picking wines to go on our shelves. Last year, our tiny planet produced 27 million tonnes of wine, made by around 200,000 makers spread over 40 wine producing countries. That's a lot of wine.

Several times a year, we go to trade tastings hosted by various importers or groups of them who organise things like the Specialist Importers' Trade Tasting, where merchants like us can go to try hundreds of wines from all over the world. Our wine and spirits buyer Dr. Graham Simpson has two decades experience in the wine trade and has a Level 4 Diploma awarded by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) so we like to think he knows his stuff!

So the wines that are on our shelves only got there by being really good, but it also means that we know our range inside out. We've tried them, our staff have tried them, we have all discussed them, debated a few, argued over a few more, and filtered our range down to the best of what we can get our hands on. This means that when we host a wine tasting, we really know the wine in front of us and it is this knowledge of our wines that we want to pass on to you.

So how do we do it? What happens at a wine tasting? Far from being fusty formal affairs, our wine tastings are very informal but still informative. There will normally be between six and eight bottles of wine "on show" and your host will normally be working to a theme. This can be as simple as country of origin, but there are all sorts of others (hint: see our Events Calendar!). You will be poured a tasting measure of the first wine on arrival and your host will talk about the wine while you try the stuff. Then you'll be free to ask questions or talk amongst yourselves.

Given that we're a food hall as well as a wine merchant, we also serve canapés at our wine tastings. Don't expect a meal - these are small tasters of various things that we sell in the shop that we have paired with the wine.

One by one, you'll be served each wine and each will be explained - where it's from, how it's made and who by, grape varietals and how it tastes. Your host will have thought very carefully about the order in which the wines are poured in order that the one before doesn't overpower the next and so on. At the end of the night, if there is wine left over, you are welcome to revisit any of them, but do it with others in mind - don't gulp down all the leftovers like a thirsty seagull (believe me, people do). Each of our tastings last around two hours, but some run on quite a bit longer, especially if gin is involved.

So there you have it. By attending regularly, you will very quickly start to learn a lot about wine without even realising that you're doing it, and having a pretty good time in the process! Have a look at our Events Calendar for forthcoming dates at all of our stores, and make sure you book well in advance - our tastings sell out fast!

See you soon!

Jamie Moore