Friday, June 20, 2008

Hardy's Wine Tasting

Wed 18 June 2008

Hmm, the tickets to the Hardy's wine tasting arrived announcing that I would learn everything I needed to know about wine in just half an hour. I guess it all depends on your definition of 'need to know'.

Not one to knock back a free night out, I dragged Andy along to the Smokestack on Lower Briggate. This is a quiet little bar (well, on a Wednesday), apparently run by the same people as Sandinista, and its only nod towards pretension is not having any beer on draught.

We didn't have to worry about that, as we were greeted with glasses of bubbles and settled ourselves down, before being inundated with canapés. Overall, there wasn't too much to get excited about here, although I was taken with the pineapple which had been grilled with five spice: I'll be tucking that one away for later use!

The real show started at 7, when we were ushered upstairs and seated, wines set out in front of us. I think that less than half the expected number turned up, which might have been a good thing: too many more people at my table and I would have ended up spilling more wine than I did!

The presentation was in the form of a romantic comedy. Yes, bear with me on this one. On the small stage area sat a man and a woman, both gazing at their laptops. "Is this a BLOGGING wine tasting?" said Andy incredulously. No, these were the protganists in our fable which took Miss Wine Expert and, through the magic of internet dating, introduced her to Mr Average Guy. Along the way, the audience got to learn about wine, thanks to the enthusiasm of the narrator, Chris Scott, of ThirtyFifty.

In just half an hour he covered an awful lot of ground, and while I was happy (it was all factually correct) Andy suspected that the amount of information that might sink in was limited. On reflection, I'm inclined to agree: cool climates might mean higher acidity but what does "cool climate" mean? And higher acidity compared with ... what exactly?

What I did like was that we tasted five different wines, all from Hardy's Nottage Hill range. Andy wasn't sure about the wines: he thought we should have had a cheaper Pinot Noir and a better quality (and no doubt more expensive) one as a compare and contrast type exercise (ha! I've turned him into a wine snob without him knowing it!). However, bearing in mind this was a marketing event, and that the average spend on a bottle of wine in the UK is about £5 (or is it £4), I was quite happy.

So ... to drink (all Hardy's Nottage Hill) we had the Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, and Shiraz Tempranillo. We did different things with the wines: the Chardonnay we tasted holding our noses and then sucking in air through our mouths to open the flavours, the Riesling was for acid and the Pinot Noir and the Cab Shiraz were to learn about weight. A neat trick for describing the mouth feel of tannins to non drinkers - run the tongue over the roof of the mouth. Tannic wine will make it feel 'grippy'.

In terms of the wines ... the winner was the Riesling, followed by the Pinot Noir. Andy was pretty happy with the Shiraz Tempranillo, but I thought both the 'big' reds were simply too hot. But these are wines that retail around the £5 and they were all basic, clean, reasonable examples (apart from maybe the Chardonnay - or is it just me that dislikes oaked Chardonnay so ureasonably?).

At times the action on stage was a little cringeworthy. At times, members of the audience laughed too loudly at an 'in' wine joke (that would be me). In case you didn't absorb everything you need to know, Hardy's offer a text service (64007) for food and wine matching.

I came away thinking that it had been a far more enjoyable couple of hours than sitting in front of the telly ...

And now, Robert of the Wine Conversation knows all about it!

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Blogger Robert McIntosh said...

a nice coincidence that I heard about it just as you were going! thanks for the write-up

Overall, do you think it is the kind of thing (wine with theatre/comedy) that would be worth replicating elsewhere? What I really liked about it is the fact you could follow along with the wines, so learning PLUS doing.

2:24 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

In short - yes, I think it would be worth experimenting with. I'm now toying with writing a post about how the idea could be expanded ... You could do all sorts of things where you matched wine with holiday destinations or certain types of food.

I think the main thing is to encourage people to think outside whatever square they think they're in - and this evening (hopefully) achieved that.

7:06 pm  

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