There is a gag that goes along the lines of ‘Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it’. For me it appears to becoming less of a gag and more of a statement of fact.
Like most people I go through phases. When I had my first taste of alcohol it was cheap supermarket lager. I later moved on to what I refer to as ‘the tormented cider years’ then it was back to the lager but with a taste for the more refined, European varieties. More recently I’ve turned from the grain to the grape. A decision encouraged by the occasional news feature covering the health benefits of drinking red wine along with the vain hope I can class it as one of my five a day.
I’ve tasted some really good wine and some seriously bad wine in my search for the perfect tipple. Some restaurants serve a palatable house red whilst others taste like they could double as a house hold cleaner. There is another saying I’m fond of: ‘Life is too short to drink bad wine’ determined not to continue ordering the tried and tested old Rioja forever how do you learn what else is available and, more importantly, what you prefer?
The answers can be found at one of Hart’s wine tasting and supper evenings. Hart’s occupies the site of an old Victorian Hospital and has built a reputation as one of the most refined and stylish city centre restaurants in Nottingham. Owned by Tim Hart, who also owns the nearby Hambleton Hall, which is one of Britain’s top country house hotels. The master of ceremony for the evening is non-other than Tim Hart himself – a tutored tasting of eight wines followed by a three course dinner, washed down with yet more wine. The theme for the evening we attended was ‘Burgundy’ with red wines from this region and white wines from both Burgundy and areas slightly further afield including Maconnais and Chalonnais.
As the wine was poured Tim Hart talked us through both the geographical and geological details of the Burgundy area. Interestingly of all the regions it is the one where wine quality has been studied the longest. It is said that in the 12th Century Cistercian and Benedictine monks “tasted the soil” to explore its potential and distinguish one Cru (meaning both land and wine) from another. Fortunately we were not required to taste any soil. All the wines we tried were favourites from the Hambleton Hall list with the reds designed to exemplify the contrast between primary and secondary flavours in fine red Burgundy.
Tim also taught us about the sensory side of wine including an appreciation of the appearance in the glass, their varying aromas and how they change when allowed to stand and breathe. Not forgetting of course the taste itself and the aftertaste in order to understand the character of the wine and also the potential for ageing. That is assuming you have the patience to store a bottle.
We began with four whites. Each wine was presented in front of a bright white sheet of paper bearing their individual details. A wines colour is easier to judge when examined against a white background.
2010 Macon La Roche Vineuse, Oliver Merlin
2010 Ladoix, Bois des Grechons, Sylvain Loichet
2008 Rully Premier Cru Meix Cadot, Vincent Dureuil Janthail
2010 Pouilly Fuisse, Dom. de la Soufrandise.
The latter being my preferred among those we tried, made from old-vine Chardonnay, Soufrandise have held back on the oak, allowing the rich fruit to come to the fore. All were sampled in fairly quick succession as a wine’s quality is more objectively assessed when performed alongside other wines. If attending an event my advice would be to ensure you have eaten during the day. Unfortunately I hadn’t so by the time it came to the red wines, although it isn’t full glasses you are sampling, I was feeling a little numb.
2008 St Aubin Premier Cru Derriere la Tour, Jean Claude Bachelet.
2008 Aloxe Corton, Follin Arbelet.
2004 Chambolle Musigny, Digioia-Royer
2002 Pommard Premier Cru Comte Armand.
With red wine being my preference over white my favourite among those we tried was the Pommard which was deep ruby in colour and boasted aromas of dark fruit, with interesting orange peel and cinnamon notes.
Dinner thankfully followed our education. We were served a lovely Terrine of Sea Bream and Potato followed by a succulent leg of Lamb with Couscous laced with spinach followed by a gorgeous Lemon Tart with coffee and chocolate to finish. All of which, as you would expect from Hart’s, were fresh and delicious with exquisite presentation.
You can take courses online or continue a system of picking one with a nice name similar to how I bet on horses. But there are a growing number of wine schools offering tasting classes to the public to help them develop their preferences and knowledge in a controlled and informative way.
For something a little classier the events at Hart’s are quite special. At £65 per person your wine and dinner is included. Pre-booking is essential.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0115 9881900