I'm getting a taste for sampling wine
You may recall I was waxing lyrical about a certain discount store in this column a few weeks ago. My opening sentence was: "You know when you're in Lidl when you ask a member of staff where the lettuce is and they say 'It's down that aisle, next to the industrial drill bits'."
Well, the people at Lidl were delighted when they read it and subsequently added me to their Christmas card list. The result was an invitation which arrived in the post, cordially inviting me to a tasting event in London featuring their upcoming collection of 48 French wines. Happy days!
So, off I went last Thursday, on the red-eye flight to London along with a group of Northern Ireland's most eminent wine afficionados. I'm no wine expert myself but I do know what I do and don't like and I certainly know how to drink it!
Besides, I've always found the language and concept of wine-tasting really entertaining and sometimes even amusing. Remember Jilly Goolden off the BBC show Food and Drink, for example? Her comments used to be hilariously eccentric and yet spot on in their descriptions: “This high-note of this wine is sooo reminiscent of that slight musky odour which lingers in the air after an elk has strolled past you in a Norwegian pine forest, don't you find ...?”
I wouldn't be attempting anything quite so verbose but I was certainly looking forward to getting a sneaky sample of next season's choices ahead of anyone else.
Peter Morris Wilson — Lidl's own wine expert — suggested that the first thing we should sample ought to be the Champagne.
Fantastic! I love bubbly, so I decided to go with the flow. After all it would be rude not to. I reached into the ice bucket for the first bottle from a very long line and poured myself a big glass that slipped down very nicely indeed.
“Absolutely delicious!” I pronounced, pouring myself a second glass from the second wine bucket.
It was only then that I noticed my colleagues with just an inch in their glasses, holding them up to the light, admiring the clarity, sniffing the bouquet,
swishing it around in the glass, slurping it noisily between their palate, tongue and teeth and then spitting it out into a bucket.
“Yes, the Compte de Senneval Champagne Brut is indeed a perfect aperitif. It's light, clean, sharp ... there's a hint of yeasty brioche going on with a finish of crispy-baked apples. A good, sound starter ...” they were both agreeing, while I downed my second glass. I decided to slow down and do exactly as they did, otherwise it would be doubtful that I would survive to number 48 in one piece.
By the third sample I was feeling confident enough to attempt some descriptive wine-speak for myself.
“This is really refreshing. I'm getting melon with a distinct mellow afterglow of elderflower coming through ...” All around me agreed avidly, so I knew I was getting the hang of it.
We then moved into the white wines, the rosés and the reds, followed by the dessert wines, by which stage I was articulating taste like I'd never thought possible.
It was an illuminating experience, mingling at first hand with such articulate and enthusiastic experts. I learnt a lot about how to actually experience wine, rather than just drinking it without much thought or with the sole aim of getting squiffy.
I had a few favourites of my own, too, which I will be seeking out after the next consignment arrives at Lidl. Who knows? It might even be the start of a whole new career direction ...
But, in the meantime, Peter kindly agreed to recommend his choice of the best wines from the bunch for your delectation. Here are his choices:
To accompany a barbecue or grilled meat dishes, Peter recommends Serabel Vacqueyras Rhône 2012 which will be retailing at £8.99 in Lidl from September.
To go with fish, he suggests P. de Marcilly Maçon-Villages de Bourgogne 2011, £7.49.
For simple quaffing at home he selected the Fitou Reserve de Fonsalis 2011, priced at £5.99.
As for me, I'd recommend them all, one after another, because frankly they were all pretty delicious; starting with the Champagne, of course. Hic!