Thursday, May 7, 2009

Polly's No Ordinary Nutcracker...

One 0f the things that I've always wanted to do, but for various reasons haven't is Wine Tasting. That's not to say that I haven't tasted my fair share of wines over the years, but it is certainly something that until recently has gone on the proverbial long finger...

Maybe it's the snob value that has succeeded in putting me off. Despite every thing I once attended the Russian State Ballet performing Swan Lake and the Nutcracker at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. Although I was familiar with the music, I had never 'been into' the ballet. Reluctantly I agreed to celebrate my erstwhile friend Frances 'Bunty' Sexton's birthday with her and a few friends by attending one of the most beautiful performances of my life.

The fact that I was in my leather biker jeans and jacket and Debbie was in her hideous zebra skin leggings was beside the point. Within moments we were immersed into a new and beautiful world, one where appearances didn't really matter, not even during the half time intermission visit to the theatre bar...

Sadly, I have long since lost touch with this old friend, but have never forgotten the fun that we had together all those years ago. Maybe this was why I jumped at the chance of attending the Wine Appreciation Course at Arthur & Nuala Halligan's "Wine Buff" here in Tullamore. I had hoped that one of my birthday gifts, at the end of March might have been a voucher for it, but I really can't complain as I did receive a steam proof pair of oven gloves, a huge double layered bamboo steamer, a Cuttlebug and a spinning wheel instead. Anything else would just have been over the top...

For those of you not familiar with The Wine Buff, this franchised chain of wine shops specialises in the provision of "Extra-ordinary wines at ordinary prices!" While this may be a catchy turn of phrase, it is also very true. Dealing exclusively with small established vineyards in the old world, ie France, Italy, Spain and Hungary this shop lives up to its promise.

So, after two weeks I am now looking forward to the final night of the course. We've already discussed the basics, ie the bottle, labels, corks, etc on the first night. Last week we passed around the aroma kit contents, with the promise of a €35.00 St Emillion for the person who correctly identified the first five - sadly I confused the scent of black-jack's with that of fruit-salads! I got four out of five and the dreadful clinging scent of cat pee stuck in my nasal passages for the remainder of the session.

Now I know how to work or chew the wine. To breathe through the wine without laughing too hard, I would recommend dark clothing and not a new white blouse for that part - oh and stick to white! I can identify the fruit, acid, alcohol and tannins on the palate and talk about the length and balance of the wine. Best of all I get to purchase a nice bottle of red wine to curry brownie points with DG for babysitting services rendered while I'm out having fun!

What I can't do, despite my very good intentions is SPIT. I'm sorry, but that just seems to be taking things that step too far! Our host for the evening, the lovely Daragh who hails from the Limerick shop does SPIT as he drives home each night. His lively, laid back presentation is so gregarious and bubbly that he really doesn't need alcohol anyway!

It seems that I prefer red to white and that I also like a healthy kick of tannin in my wine. Ordinarily I go for Spanish reds; the Rioja's, the Tempranillo's and the Crianza's being my favourites. Although, I have discovered a distinct liking for Cotes Du Rhone(see left) , probably due to the use of the Grenache/Garnacha grape there too!

Although it's described a fault, I like the green peppery taste associated with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and how I could go on, and on, and on some more! Wow! Just listen to that, it's never too late to teach a new dog old tricks! So many of the myths which surround the art of wine tasting and appreciation have fallen by the wayside as a result of Daragh's whacky, laid back presentations!

Tonight, being the last night, we get to open the famous St Emillion from last week and taste it with and without food. The word lemon was mentioned last week, as was apple, cheese and crackers. Somehow I doubt that it'll be any of the above, but whatever it is I can hardly wait! I now have anecdotes galore to share with my friends and probably the beginning of liver disease too - after all, there is homework during the week to be done...

From the very first night, I knew that this was going to be fun and it is. With half of my local BNI chapter there, how could it fail to be? Regardless, if you have an interest in wine and want to know a bit more about it, without any frills or too many spills, I would highly recommend that you head on down to your local Wine Buff and make enquiries.


Polly Pierce

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