The bluffers guide to acing a wine tasting
Wine tourism is on the rise but showing up to a vineyard with a total lack of knowledge need not be a problem if you follow these steps from France expert Anthony Peregrine
Drinking wine is normally one of the things that tourists look forward to most when visiting France. Often, it is done as part of a wider series of holiday activities such as sightseeing, lazing on a beach or going for a scenic walk.
However more and more people are now visiting France purely to drink wine.
Wine tourism is positively booming with more than 10 million people travelling from all over the world to visit vineyards and châteaux to sample the best of regional French produce. It’s not just older tourists either, wine lovers of all ages are getting involved, travelling around l’Hexagone on two wheels, four wheels, on foot or by boat to enjoy a wine experience par excellence.
Such has been the rise in wine tourism in France that there are several companies that cater for this type of tourism alone, making it easier than ever to enjoy a glass in all manner of places such as river cruises, festivals and even while running. Yes, that’s right, the Marathon du Médoc is a unique annual event in Gironde in which the traditional water stops on the running route are replaced with wine stops.
So are all these wine tourists experts in their field? Absolutely not. But luckily it doesn’t really matter. So if you are one of those people who loves a glass but can never quite put your finger on what you are tasting, then try out this bluffers guide to wine tasting, as told by travel writer and France expert Anthony Peregrine to the audience at The France Show at London’s Olympia:
• If you don’t receive a warm welcome at a winery, leave, there’ll be several others happy to see you nearby. If you’re happy, then here’s how to proceed.
• Hold out your glass and don’t be surprised if it’s only a fifth full, this is a tasting.
• Hold the glass to the light to check the colour, swirl it, then tip it on its side and back to see if that leaves tears running down the glass. If so, say “nice legs/belles jambes” because that’s what the French say.
• Sniff, swirl and sniff again to release the aromas
• Now sip and slurp the wine across the tastebuds to bring out the flavours
• Then you shut up because in my experience no French winemaker can stand the silence. He’ll say something like: “You can detect the nuances of vanilla, grilled nuts, gooseberry, cinnamon?” Then you say: “Not half,” and hold out your glass for the second wine.
• If you like the wine you must buy some. The producer has put him or herself out for you If you don’t like it, on no account say so. You can no more tell a vigneron that his wine is awful than say his children look like rodents. Instead, ask him where his wine is available in the UK or Ireland. And the secret is this; whatever the answer, say “Good heavens, that’s only 15 minutes from our house!” Thus making sure everyone is kept happy, which is the whole point of the exercise.
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