Another Fun Evening of Tasting and Learning

Monday 30 January 2017

Our first tasting meeting was so successful that I ran it for a second time. The Cape Wine Lovers’ Society blends together many passions I have: a passion for wine, a love of learning, pleasure from sharing and entertaining, and a strong sense of fun and adventure.

The evening was set with the table laid and wines ready at the correct temperatures. Our guests soon arrived and we began our introductions. It is always a delight to meet new people as well as to introduce friends to those with similar interests.

The Introduction to Wine Tasting meeting always has a slow start as I explain the theory of wine tasting. How is wine served? At what temperature? In what order do we taste? I use the 3-point scoring system taught by the Cape Wine Academy. This gives up to a total of 20 points: 3 points for Colour, 7 points for Nose, and 10 points for Palate. I find it really useful to assess and record objectively each wine sampled. The method does not allow me to look back to see which wines I really enjoyed and so I explained to my guests how also to give a subjective score for ‘Likeability’, out to 10 points.

I selected wines from the Constantia Valley for this meeting. It showcases them off well. It was fun seeing how many estates my guests could name as there are many more than we ever realise – 13 in total. It gives me the opportunity too to show off two of my favourite, smaller vineyards: Silvermist Organic Estate and Hout Bay Vineyards.

Each guest is given their own Cape Wine Lovers’ Society folder with notes for the evening on the Constantia Valley, how to taste wine, bottle notes from the selected wines, and characteristics of each grape variety. It gives a place too to keep tasting sheets. I shall add to these at each meeting to build up a library of useful information.

Very soon and we were tasting the 3 white wines, each single variety. The challenge as a new learner to separate colours that are very similar is real and especially when they are all pale. What is yellow? How yellow? Can you see the difference between green-yellow? And pale yellow? And straw yellow? The guests were soon in deep conversation about what they could see.

So too, is assessment of the nose. I explained the three main flavour families for white wines: herbal, apple and floral. Understanding these, and their associated flavours, is a real help to identify each wine. There was much discussion and I was impressed with the discerning ability of my guests. What is fruity, for example? Is it citrus, berry, stone fruit or tropical fruit? If citrus, can one tell lemon from lime, or grapefruit or tangerine or orange?

Understandably, after the theory introduction, the guests were soon to taste! Scoring sheets were being used – some left incomplete in the excitement to taste the next glass. I really enjoyed the discussions as to what grape variety each white was and gave clues to assist. The Silvermist Sauvignon Blanc was the clear winner but some preferred the Chardonnay or the Viognier. Wine is such a personal preference.

We tasted the rosé alone and this too was enjoyed. Rosés are never easy to assess for nose and palate and often confuse. Rosé is rosé after all but can be made, and is, from almost any grape variety.

I cleared the table and rinsed the glasses for the next tasting of three reds. I showed how to assess the colour and body of a red wine by looking down at the stem from on top. What is ruby? And garnet? And purple? We laughed about the cliché that men identify far fewer colours than women.

Assessing the nose followed. Red wines too can be separated into flavour families: red berry, black fruit and spiced fruit. The first red, the Buitenverwachting Merlot was an immediate favourite and universally enjoyed. I like the rich plumminess and soft spice undertones. The Hout Bay Vineyard Shiraz was a close second. It is such a pleasure to introduce the estate as few have sampled before or been to the beautiful tasting room, which is by appointment only. I can see that I shall have to arrange a visit soon.

I revealed which wine was which and, as with the whites, we tried to guess the prices. This is always an interesting exercise and always comes with surprises. More expensive wines are not always the ones most enjoyed.

The chatter was easy and in full flow, so much so that concentration on the dessert Muscat wine was limited. It mattered little. The cheese board was a great success too. Tasting makes one hungry! I had selected cheeses to pair with each wine: hard cheddar for Sauvignon Blanc, soft creamy camembert for Chardonnay, salty feta for Viognier, blue cheese for Merlot, hard tasty gruyere for Cabernet Sauvignon, and goat’s cheese for Shiraz. Much was down to individual preference. It just goes to show that ‘we like what we like’ and, rightfully, this supersedes the theory.

It remained only for the guests to order the wines they really enjoyed and to settle up. I trust my guests enjoyed the evening as much as I did. Next, on Thursday 16 February, the tasting theme is ‘Chardonnay and Shiraz’. I can’t wait!

Wines tasted:

2015 Silvermist Sauvignon Blanc – R150
2015 Groot Constantia Chardonnay – SOLD OUT (at vineyard)
2016 Eagles’ Nest Viognier – R155
2016 Constantia Glen Saddle Rosé – R95
2012 Buitenverwachting Merlot – R150
2014 Klein Steenberg Cabernet Sauvignon – R80
2012 Hout Bay Vineyards Shiraz – R130
Constantia Uitsig Muscat (375ml) – R285

2017-01-19-12-46-19

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