Thu 23 Jan 2014

A Beginner’s Guide To Wine Tasting: A Society Workshop


‘Let’s start from the beginning – it’s a very good place to start.’

Assessing colourOne of the most interesting things about working in the wine industry is that there is always something new to learn. The world of wine is an evolving one – there to keep us on our toes, to intrigue us, enthral us and offer ever more diverse ways to share our passion with others.

Increasingly, wine consumers are wanting to develop their own knowledge and appreciation of wine. To help our newer members and their guests on this journey, the Tastings & Events Team hold regular wine workshops to guide members through the basic principles of wine tasting – ‘how to’, ‘why we need to’, ‘why particular wines taste the way that they do’, and ‘how we can tell if there are faults with the wine’.

On a sunny Saturday morning earlier in January, Simon Mason, The Society’s Tastings & Events manager, welcomed 48 of our members and their guests to a workshop, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting’, at our premises in Stevenage.


Over the course of the session, everyone was given a selection of ten wines covering a range of styles, from crisp whites to gutsy reds with a wonderful sweet example for good measure:

The wines that were tasted at this workshop were:

Tastings manager Simon Mason introduces the workshop

Tastings manager Simon Mason introduces the workshop

England: Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé 2010 (£22)

Burgundy: Mâcon Villages, Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard 2012 (£9.50)
Germany: Niedermenniger Riesling Kabinett 2012 (von Kesselstatt) (£9.50)
Spain: Navajas Blanco Crianza, Rioja 2010 (£7.50)

Italy: Brunello di Montalcino Gianni Brunelli 2008 (£28)
New Zealand: Momo Pinot Noir 2011 Marlborough (£11.95, currently out of stock)
Australia: The Society’s Exhibition Victoria Shiraz 2010 (£17.50)
Bordeaux: La Réserve de Leoville Barton 1997 Saint-Julien (Not available for sale)
Bordeaux: Château Belgrave 2007 Haut-Médoc (£29)

Bordeaux: The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2010 (£19, or £9.95 per half bottle)

As we worked our way through the wines, Simon talked us through all the things that we can look for when tasting wine.

Making sure that the right conditions were in place when trying the wines was key. A light, bright room for visibility and an absence of any interfering smells, such as food and perfume, were essentials.

The glassware used for tasting wine was also important. A tulip-shaped glass featuring a good wide lower point with a narrower top is the ideal glass for capturing the full range of aromas, and for keeping the wine inside the glass when swirling! Simon explained the best styles of glassware for drinking different wines to enhance their flavour profiles, and thus why we use different glasses for red and white wines and very small glasses for sherry and fortified wines.

As we went through the process of tasting the wines we were given clear instruction of what we should be looking for in the appearance of the wine, what we identified on the nose, what the palate picked up when tasting, and lastly our conclusions. There is a definitive vocabulary used for describing our findings and we were encouraged to use these terms when analysing the wines. For example, we described or identified clarity, intensity, colour, condition, aromatic characteristics, sweetness, acidity, tannins, body, flavours and, lastly, finish.

FoodWe briefly looked at the more popular grape varieties and how viticulture, viniculture and age were key factors in determining the taste and appearance of the final bottled product. Of particular interest was the influence of botrytis (noble rot) in the making of sweet wines such as the Sauternes that we tasted.

Simon explained the more common wine faults we are likely to come across; essentially, what can and sometimes does go wrong and how we can identify these problems. He then gave information on ideal temperatures for keeping and serving different wines, the best storage conditions and the need for certain wines to be decanted.

As well as the ten different wines to try we were also given a plate containing various foods and ‘tastes’ that would alter the flavour and enjoyment of the wines (both positively and negatively). Sugar, salt, lemon, apple, spicy crisps, cheese, grapes and a strip of PTC paper to show our response to bitterness when it reacted to the proteins on our tongue, all produced some surprising results and an interesting talking point for us to end on.

We are holding another ‘Beginner’s Guide To Wine Tasting’ workshop at our premises in Stevenage on Saturday 29th March from 11am to 12.30pm. Tickets are available for £35 and can be ordered online or by calling Member Services on 01438 740222, quoting reference number TG140329.

You may also be interested to visit The Society’s online Guide To Tasting. To help members get the most out of tasting wine, our buyers have also put together a 10-bottle Guide To Tasting Case with a 20-page booklet and detailed tasting notes exploring the subjects about which members seek advice most often.

Stephanie Searle
Tastings & Events Team

Categories : Wine Tastings

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