Saucy Dressings’ chief correspondent, Domini Hogg, went to a wine tasting recently which was a particular success. Below she reports back, describing how it went.
Often wine tastings can leave you more confused and less sure of your own tasting capabilities than when you started. Not this one. Instead of asking you to come up with increasingly imaginative and convoluted ways of describing the differences between two wines, Philip Morton at M-Wines takes a much more down-to-earth approach. His two terms are yum and yuck. Sound manageable?
“His two terms are ‘yum’ and ‘yuk’ – sound manageable?”
Not only is it easy, but the M-wines tasting is actually useful! Philip’s mission is to rescue good wines from the terrible fate of being destroyed by bad food choices. I watch his pained expression as he describes some of the disaster choices he’s seen people make. Rather than help people choose wine to suit their food, Philip aims to give his tasters a better understanding of their own palate so that they can modify their food to suit their wine. The concept is that everyone is more or less sensitive to three main flavours: sweet, bitter and savoury. The more sensitive you are to a flavour, the more it will affect your enjoyment of the wine you are drinking.
“Philip’s mission is to rescue good wines from the terrible fate of being destroyed by bad food choices.”
Set up on a tiny, slightly ramshackle plastic table beside the M-wines stall on Maltby Street Market, this was a novel experience. How many other wine tastings have you been to outside in April that resemble more a picnic than an intense cellar experience? We had a glorious day for it and my friend and I were delighted to be soaking in the buzz of the market as we sipped our wines.
Philip served us six different wines to taste (red, white, sparkling and rose) and asked us to choose the three we liked the best. That was easy. I chose a New Zealand Marlborough white (a typical favourite of mine), a red Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a rich French red from the Cote du Roussillon Villages. All Philip’s wines are made by winemakers and growers who normally make wines for big labels, but have always longed to create wine of their own. M-wines are their dream wines.
“All Philip’s wines are made by winemakers and growers who normally make wines for big labels, but have always longed to create wine of their own.”
Now that we had selected our wines, the next stage became a real scientific experiment. Philip had to be quite strict with us to make sure we were eating and drinking everything in the right order. We were even given a form to fill out with our results! In front of us was a plastic tray carefully separated into different flavours (grapes and an angel cake for sweet, a piece of beef or cheese for savoury and some chunks of dark chocolate for bitter). We were to first taste the wine, then try one of the flavours and finally try the wine again. For each flavour we had to note down how it affected the taste of the wine. We each reacted differently. I was very sensitive to the sweet flavours, while my friend tasted very little difference. The opposite was true for us on the bitter flavours.
Once we had ascertained which flavours we were sensitive to, we could then experiment with either acid (a small amount of lemon juice) or salt to rebalance our palates before trying the wine again. For my friend, salt was the answer to everything!
“We each reacted differently…. for my friend salt was the answer to everything”
The tasting at M-wines was not only a fantastically fun day out, but also extremely helpful. I was surprised to find I was able to apply what I had learned so soon afterwards. Only a week later I was enjoying a beautiful Senilhac Bordeaux from 2010 which was completely destroyed the moment I popped a sweet and sour slathered deep fried cauliflower into my mouth. But this time, I knew what to do! I flew to the fridge and cut myself a slice of lemon. The wine immediately returned to the deliciously smooth flavour it had had before.
This post is dedicated to Sophia Goodall
- for more about Maltby Street Market, follow this link.
- for an account of a very different type of wine tasting follow this link.