I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what I know about wine could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Yes, I drink wine. I can tell when it’s bad, when it’s good and when it’s great (which isn’t exactly price dependent). So with an open mind and an empty glass, I headed along to experience a ride on the Wine Tube at the Savour Food Festival
The initial concept was simple – six ‘stations’ with two samples at each. The ‘crews’ from Convivium Wines and Vino Wines were looking to stimulate more than our palate (less laughing at the back please) and the results were amazing.
We started at the first white stop, where along with tasting two wines – a Gruner Veltiner and a Semillon – our audio senses were going to be stimulated. Our host played two types of music – the first was funky and upbeat, with the second piece was mellow and chilled out. And this had a surprising impact on both wines. Listening to the funky music gave both wines a zingy, fresher edge. Whereas the chilled out music smoothed both of them out; giving them a smoother mouthfeel.
The second white wine station would stimulate our sense of touch, whilst drinking a Rueda and a Chardonnay. Holding a wine glass in our ‘drinking hand’, we were to rub a velvet piece of cloth in our free hand. This had the bizarre effect of switching the tastes of the wine – the fresh and crisp Rueda become creamy, and the creamy Chardonnay became fruity and zingier. Distraction techniques methinks!
The red stations brought a bit more science into our tasting. The first introduced us to tannins, which give many wines their textures. The two wines we tried – a Beaujolais and a Cabernet Franc – are both known for being low in tannins, which gives them a light mouth feel. We were then invited to spray cold tea, which is essentially concentrated tannins, on our tongue. This had the effect of allowing the wine to coat and stick to our tongue more than it had previously. It didn’t make either of the wines taste better or worse – it just made both taste more like a ‘proper’, tannin heavy red wine.
The second station demonstrated the impact that food can have on our palates, as each of us were offered some moreish goats cheese and black peppercorn popcorn. Previously, our Rioja and other ‘blended wine’ had the freedom to move and release their flavours. But the goats cheese and black peppercorns left them fighting for any sort of presence.
Now, to the fizz! The first station explained to us the difference between Prosecco-type drinks and Champagne-type drinks. The former involves fermenting the liquid in huge vats, whereas the latter requires the liquid to be bottle fermented, with the yeast then removed prior to corking. The labour and time intensive nature of the Champagne production technique is what makes it the latter of the two more expensive. To demonstrate that it isn’t just the French that can do this, to accompany our Prosecco, we sampled a bubbly English Sparkling Wine, which tasted the same a Champagne and for a comparable price.
Finally, it was time to lose our sight. Not from having tasted ten different wines in 40 minutes, but by donning a blindfold. On initial tasting, we thought we were tasting a sparkling wine and a rose. On removing our blindfolds though, it turns out we were tasting a Pink or Rose Fizz and a bizarre Red Fizz (which reminded me of Kopparberg).
After just 45 minutes riding the wine train, it was time for us to disembark. We were much tipsier than when we climber on board, but all the wise about how humans taste food and drink with all of their five senses.