Discovering the taste of wine: a full day course with Thirty Fifty

London was dressed by a flurry of snow one Saturday morning when BF and I partook in a wine tasting course held by ThirtyFifty (so named after the latitudes where the majority of the world’s wine grapes are grown) at Suze in Mayfair.  It’s between 10:30 am and 11 am when we sipped the 1st out of 18 wines for the day and I wondered who, among the 9 of us attendees, will be drunk by noon. As it turns out, we were all far more interested in discovering our taste of wine to waste our day.

Let me first disclose that while BF and I are avid wine drinkers and have gone on our fair share of wine tours/tastings when on vacation – namely Penedes near Barcelona, Casablanca Valley in Chile, and Santa Ynez in California – I am not all that knowledgeable on the actual tasting of wine and the appropriate pairing with food.  So when Chris Scott, proprietor of ThirtyFifty and our wine expert, invited me along with a guest to the Discovery Day Wine Tasting course, complete with a 3-course lunch, I eagerly accepted.

We all taste differently.
  Chris, our enthusiastic wine expert, introduced us to the 3 taste type categories: super, normal, and non.  Super tasters, as you can probably guess, taste with greater intensity and are particularly sensitive to alcohol and tend to prefer wines that are lower in alcohol content.  On the other end of the spectrum are non tasters who are generally less sensitive in taste and, according to Chris, experience high alcohol wines as sweet. The result from a quick test involving blue food coloring, a small strip of paper, a magnifying glass, and a bit of papillae counting on Chris’ part, indicated that I am a normal taster; like 50% of my fellow men I taste with average intensity.  This is interesting to know for choosing wines because based on my taste profile I may have an inclination for smooth wines with higher alcohol content which normally come from warm climates.

Balancing food & wine.  During the course we ran a few experiments to test the interaction between food and wine.  Rather than go into the details of the experiments and ruin the fun of discovery should you take the course, let me just note how fascinating this topic is for a foodie.  I knew that how you pair food with wine can either enhance or detract from the meal but never understood the mechanics of that fact.  We learned that, when enjoying dessert, a course I rarely skip, with a sweet wine you will find that the high sugar level of the dessert will desensitize your taste of the sugar in the wine, thereby increasing the perception of its acidity and bitterness.  Go ahead, give it a try!  It is also important to note that how you pair the dessert and wine will depend on whether you are more interested in the food or wine.  Since I tend to put food first I now know that I should look for a wine that is sweeter than the dessert in order to find a good balance.

In addition to tasting 18 wines from various regions and learning to identify the structure of the wines, we also learned about the financials of winemaking, and how the shape of the glassware controls how wine is delivered to your mouth.  You can understand how everything was a little hazy to me midway through the course – 9 wines and no spitting – but I stayed with it to the end.  Though I found the 6 hour course a tad long for wine tasting I learned so much more than I expected and will be looking forward to knowledgeably choose wine appropriate for my taste and meals.

Disclosure: I attended the Discovery Wine Tasting Course courtesy of ThirtyFifty.  This in no way affected my opinion, all opinions are my own.

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