By Gary Rose
“Bergamot,” shouts some guy from the back of the room. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I think. Even though I don’t really know what bergamot smells like.
“Actually, you’re spot on,” says the owner of Seven Cellars wine and beer emporium at Seven Dials, where this tasting event is being held. “There’s definitely some Turkish delight in there.”
It’s a lightbulb moment for me, as I suddenly realise how the process of learning to evaluate wine works. As soon as I thought about Turkish delight, there it was. It was there all along. Tantalisingly beyond the reach of our evaluative and categorisational faculties, but there all the same.
The smell of bergamot has now been packaged up and thrust into a synaptic pigeon hole in the mind, ready to bloom forth the next time I get a whiff of Turkish delight from a wine. Well played that man at the back.
The thing is, pretty much everybody likes wine, but nobody bar a few “experts” admits to knowing how to describe it. “It’s lovely, but it just tastes like… wine,” they’ll say.
That’s why events like this are such a good idea. Tonight’s has an Italian theme. “Do you want a glass of Prosecco?” asks manager Matt as I enter. I didn’t realise it was going to be that sort of party but yes, of course I do. In the absence of a coat stand, I hang my jacket on a light fitting and enter the fray.
The agenda consists of three reds, three whites and a beautiful amber-coloured dessert wine that tastes like Christmas cake. Decent value at £25, especially with a wad of canapes chucked in.
Tasting different grapes back to back like this is the best way to appreciate the vast contrast between styles. The three whites couldn’t be more different, from the peachy stone fruits and steely minerality of the Sicilian Etna Bianco to the spicy Gewürtztraminer with its notes of lychee and, yes, bergamot.
Importer Matt from Armit Wines stands at the front, giving us a description of each one. It’s a job that gets increasingly difficult as everyone becomes more chatty, lubricated and opinionated. The other Matt helps out and I get chatting to local couple Helen and Andrew.
The shop does well out of it too, with a queue of punters snaking through it near chucking out time. Helen and Andrew leave clutching a 2015 Falanghina and (my favourite), the Rosso dei Notri (aka the “Super Tuscan”). I assume they’re off to continue the Italian theme at home. La dolce vita indeed. Especially after seven glasses of wine.
First published on www.brightonsource.co.uk