There is far too much snobbery about wine as well as fear of the unknown. The best way to learn about wine is to taste it; be adventurous and look for different wines when you shop or when you’re in a restaurant or bar.
A number of good wine shops have enomatic wine dispensing machines, such as Bottle Apostle, Selfridges and The Old Bridge Hotel, Huntingdon, where you can try tasting samples of wine kept in excellent condition.
If a restaurant has an interesting wine list it will offer a small selection of wines by the glass, like we did at Webber’s Wine Bar in Billericay. You can buy a glass of wine rather than committing to a bottle of wine; you never know you may fall in love with a wine you’d never heard of previously!
To give you an idea of what wine you might prefer you should test yourself with the Budometer. In the form of a short questionnair, developed in cooperation with Tim Hanni MW, it is a fascinating means to try to explain what your wine tastes are likely to be.
In the 1990s I went to a couple of seminars presented by Tim Hanni when he was working with Beringer Estates. Ostensibly they were about food and wine matching but in fact were a lot more to do with one’s perception of wine. I learnt a great deal particularly as Tim is such an excellent, enthusiastic presenter.
He suggests that there are three categories of wine taster:
- Tolerant tasters – who tend to favour dry, high-intensity, assertive wines.
- Sensitive tasters – the median group with a rather broad range of preferences.
- Hyper-sensitive tastes – who tend to have an aversion to bitterness and favor delicacy over intensity. They often prefer some degree of sweetness in their wines.
In fact Tim and the organisers of the Lodi International Wine Competition, in California, are testing the judges, many of them amateurs, to ensure that there is a mix of these categories on each jury.
Try this taste bud test which will give you an idea of your sensory sensitivity.
- To test your taste buds, you need some blue food colouring, a piece of paper with a 7mm-wide hole punched through it, and a magnifying glass.
- Swab some of the food colouring onto the tip of your tongue. The tongue will take up the dye, but the papillae, tiny structures that house the taste buds, will stay pink.
- Put the piece of paper on the front part of the tongue and, using the magnifying glass, count how many pink dots are inside the hole.
- Fewer than 15 papillae mean you are an insensitive “non-taster”, between 15 and 35 indicates an average “taster” and over 35 papillae then you are a “super-taster”.
So now you know what sort of taster you are and which wines could be your preference, go out and try all sorts and styles of wine – and enjoy yourself and don’t be put off like Michael McIntyre at the Appollo.