It was out of a collaborative effort – in which I brought the wine and the “tasting” andEmily/Hannah hosted 35 single people – that Valenwines was born. At 19.30 on Friday 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day, people slowly starting piling into the discreet Baron’s Court flat, only seconds after the last minute preparations of tasting notes, clipboards together, sliced veg and fleurettes of Austrian speck had been finished.
With a loud whistle we started and whilst getting people to talk to one other was the hosts main priority for the evening, getting people to learn anything about wine was mine, a plan was devised to combine the two. Everyone had a clipboard for tasting notes and a badge with five words on; a country, a flavour, a wine region, a grape and a food/wine pairing. As the evening was to progress the Valenwiners would move, mix and mingle into groups according to their badges, so that by the end of it they would not only meet new people on every turn but learn about these wine related groups. The evening’s wines went a little something like this:
1. Vibraciones, Cava, ES – £7.95
A crisp, dry and refreshing bubbly with plenty of acidity and granny smith, pear and citrus flavours.
– Paired with lightly salted crisps, a perfect match for cava. The starchy salty crisps are quenched perfectly by the crisp acidity of the Cava. Flavours are quite straightforward and not overbearing.
VALENWINERS got into their flavour groups
An important lesson here; flavours found in wines can often be broken down into flavour groups which make them easier to identify and communicate to others. So, for example, one group was dried fruits (in which there was raisins, prunes, dried figs & currants) another was oak (with smoke, cedar, toast & coffee). If you can first off identify the larger flavour group then it’ll be easier to determine and isolate the exact smell or flavour.
2. Etra Albarino, Rias Baixas, ES – £10.25
A fresh, light and mineral white with loads of pear, white peach and apricot. Fleshy white fruit and crisp acidity.
3. Picpoul de Pinet, Foncalieu, FR – £8.95
From the localized Picpoul grape, a crisp creamy texture, with zesty lemon and fantastic acidity.
4. Bergon Chardonnay, Laungedoc, FR – £7.95
A little fuller white with more tropical notes of pineapple, mango and peach. Mouthfilling but still dry.
– I paired the first two fresh, light and dry whites with some simple clean flavours of crudités/fresh veg and light dips and with the slightly fuller chardonnay some textured and creamy pitta and hummus.
VALENWINERS got into their wine region groups
People were again split into country groups of wine regions with all of the regions involved producing notably particular internationally acclaimed wines. The more obscure was almost certainly the New World countries with South Africa (Stellenbosch, Paarl, Constantia & Elim) notably delaying proceedings.
5. Versant Pinot Noir, Laungedoc, FR – £8.95
A commendably fruit-full pinot for the price, with berries, cherry and good clean acidity. Firm but fresh.
– I paired the light pinot fruit with a slightly lighter charcuterie; aromatic, smoky and dry Austrian speck.
6. Nix Alba, Ribera del Duero, ES – £8.25
A Tempranillo wine with rich berries, blackcurrant, earthyness and vanilla. Lots of dark fruit with good length.
– With rich spice and acidity to cut through the fat Chorizo paired perfectly with this Tempranillo.
VALENWINERS got into their grape groups
One way of illustrating just how many wine grape varieties there are is to write a book called “Wine Grapes: A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours”, as did Jancis Robinson. The other way is to get people into groups of grapes all beginning with the same letter and it was easy. They really weren’t even that obscure, for example the “T”’s; Trebbiano, Tannat, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional and Torrontes.
7. Conte Rosso, Le Marche, IT – £8.50
Sangiovese/Montepulciano blend with rich plums, damsons, dried fruit and cherry. Lots of body and warmth.
8. L.A. Cetto Petit Sirah, Baja California, MX – £6.95
A Mexican winner, full of dried figs, prunes and even chocolate and coffee. Mouthfilling with great acidity.
– A good mix of extra mature cheddar and aged parmesan. Intense cheeses for flavoursome wines, with plenty of acidity and tannin to break down the cheese proteins.
VALENWINERS (f) were asked to go and pair with some food
– By this point they had far from stopped obeying my orders but had they still been as obedient and civilized as a group of 28/29 year old should be, the girl couples (the wines) would have had pair up with their opposite numbers, the boys (dishes) ensuring they matched weight, texture, and flavour intensity of food, combing proteins with tannin and fat with acid. That said, they also could have just got with the guys they liked the look of.
9. Il Cansona de la Vid, Syrah, Ribera del Duero, ES – £11.99
A fresh, slightly medicinal sweet syrah from Ribera, with bright cherry and redcurrant served a little chilled.
– Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut: a little fruity, a little nutty but with the sweetness to match the residual sugar and currant favours in the wine.
And so, fuelled by wine and new conversation topics (wine or otherwise) the evening progressed. Those that stayed continued to enjoy wine, albeit it in slightly less restrained quantities, such that it was almost inevitable that the evening would end the way it did. Thanks for everyone who came; I hope that there were one or two interesting wines and, more than that, that you left with just one interesting fact, nugget of information or insight into the world of wine.
All wines were sourced from Albion Wine Shippers, 56 Lambs Conduit Street, WC1N 3LW – 020.7242.0873