One of the many (many) things wrong with this world is that some way along the road we forgot how to talk about wine and seemingly turned it into hieroglyphics. Wine tasting rooms and experiences often get it all wrong and intimidate interested tasters instead of welcoming them. What Glou Glou firmly believe in is enjoying wine for what it is – fermented grape juice – and as per every post, we have always aimed to be your bridge over poncy wine waters. That’s why this week, we’re deconstructing wine tasting and giving you #3 quick tips to make sure you’re comfortable with wine. Remember: It doesn’t have to be scary!
When I, Gosia, recently started my new job at Fairview, one of the biggest reasons I really wanted to work there is because their philosophy is all about encouraging an authentic wine experience – a belief I share. That’s why, when about 2 weeks into my new job I was invited on a trip to the Cederberg mountains with my friends, I decided I really wanted to share in my newfound knowledge of wine and bring some of my favourite Fairview and Spice Route wines. But I wasn’t quite sure how to do it. After all, this was going to be a camping trip. I was worried about the lack of glassware, the limited lighting … – the list went on. And then I realised that I was being a wine snob, and so I brought myself back down to earth and realised that this camping trip was an ideal way to deconstruct the experience of wine tasting and to bring break it down to what it’s all about. Here’s how we do:
Many wine estates offer starched white tablecloths, Riedel glasses and fancy waitrons dressed in black and white penguin suits. It’s an intimidating setting for anyone, especially when you feel like a preschooler who’s just stepped into a university astrophysics class. If you want to learn about wine, and don’t like these spaces, that’s A-OKAY. Whether it’s your favourite wine farm or your lounge, start by making sure you are in a comfortable atmosphere that encourages you to take in information without rushing or feeling awkward. For our deconstructed wine tasting, we swapped the tasting room for jutted rocks. Nine of us scrambled up some Cederberg boulders to find a perch and prepare for the sun’s last daily hurrah. I wore my PJs and a beanie and had an audience of good friends willing to listen and wanting to learn.
The Wine: Drink What You Like in What You Like
We were camping. So admittedly, wine glasses weren’t an option. Problem? No! I pulled together what we had – an assortment of plastic wine glasses, metal flasks and sippy cups and carefully poured out sample sizes of wine to everyone. Swirl, sniff and sip. It still works. While of course a wine glass is preferable to let more aroma into your nose, not having the right equipment does not mean you should give up. Wine enjoyment shouldn’t have to be a costly endeavor, and can be enjoyed by anyone. I could still smell most of the wonderful aromas of the wine, and the flavour’s just the same. Some friends didn’t like red wine and so they didn’t have to try any. When it comes to wine, tip #2 is to drink what you like in what you like. It’s OKAY!
The Talk: Say What You Think – and not what you Think You Should Say
As I passed each bottle of wine around and explained the variety we were trying and the backstory to each one, I also asked everyone what they thought of what they were trying. Some people said they smelt Tempo chocolate and others were more timid in their offerings and said red fruit and spice notes. To be frank, it didn’t really matter. Smell discernment is secondary to confidence. Like speaking a new language, wine talk is intimidating because you often don’t want to say anything in case you are wrong. If you smell something that makes sense to you but isn’t necessarily wine talk – e.g. like Simba Beef Chips – don’t be shy to express it. It will open up the avenue for your friends to chime in with their thoughts, and spark a conversation. Aromas are different for everyone anyway, so don’t stress if you’re not on the same page. Just remember to feel free to say what you smell, and not to say what you think you should smell.
The Take Away
As the deconstructed tasting came to a close, my friends thanked me for the most unusual experience. General consensus was that some of them had never really taken the time to appreciate wine because it is so tricky to approach, and wine tastings at farms were just gibberish to them. However, I truly believe that by creating a comfortable setting and providing the backstory about each wine and tasting it together, we generated a new interest on the topic.
Basically, the take away here is don’t let hoity-toity restaurants or wine spaces threaten you, don’t freak out if you don’t have the right glass or know the talk – just sit down to sip and learn because ultimately, wine is a personal experience in taste, but a shared experience in enjoyment.
Help us stop the ponce! Special thanks to Bert Pauw for his photography skillz while I gave my little ‘tutored tasting’.