By Jo Cooksey
I have a small confession to make. I don’t know much about wine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a glass as much as the next person but in terms of a knowledge wider than it comes in three colours and is sweet, medium or dry, I don’t know much more. So, when I was invited to the recent #ukwinehour tasting, I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand my small font of knowledge. Oh and of course to drink wine.
I should explain that #ukwinehour is a weekly Twitter wine chat that happens on Thursday evenings between 7pm and 8pm. The lady behind it, Sorcha Holloway, also organizes and hosts wine related events around the country and abroad. This event was to be her first up north.
The events are designed to bring wine fans together, be they experts or home sippers, to try wines and discuss them with the wine suppliers and with each other. As well as sharing their experiences on social media. The Manchester event welcomed 12 suppliers with over 30 wines.
Sorcha says: “#ukwinehour is about bringing people together with a common interest in wine – whether they are branching out from Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon, want to learn more and taste new wines, work in the industry or want to venture into the world of wine. The live events are a fun opportunity to get together and meet new wine enthusiasts and with so many brilliant wine bars, bloggers and wine fans in the north, we decided to hold the event in the Manchester.
“There is something for everyone at our live event, from well-known Spanish Cavas and traditional French reds, through to up and coming English sparkling wines and lesser known Hungarian varieties – so grab a glass and join in the fun!”
The setting for the evening’s event was the library of Chetham’s School of Music, which is housed in a stunning Medieval building. It was originally built as a college for the priests of the nearby Manchester Cathedral in 1421 and if you haven’t been for a look around I would highly recommend it.
On arrival, I picked up a glass and a booklet explaining what wines were on offer and made my way to the first table. This was manned by a lovely gentleman called Kit, from Exton Park in Hampshire, who was displaying the vineyard’s non-vintage Brut Reserve made from a blend of 60% Blanc de Pinot and 40% Chardonnay grapes and their Brut Rosé. I do think us Brits make excellent sparkling wines but the Rosé was on another level. The tasting notes say, ‘A sparkling pale pink, delicate yet with a surprising depth of fruit, this wine is made by pressing very slowly and carefully 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier grapes for just the right amount of time to achieve the subtle colour. An ideal aperitif or ‘celebration’ drink, but also good with shellfish or light meats – as well as fine charcuterie like Lomo or Bresaola.’ I thought it was light and refreshing with a delightfully delicate flavour. I’d certainly like to try more of this and I have already found a supplier in Manchester. The vineyard sits on the slopes of the South Downs, so underneath the top layer of soil is chalk. This means the vines get a lot of minerals but that they must work harder to draw the moisture they need, resulting in a smaller yield but a more concentrated flavour to the grapes.
The hall had started filling up, so I made my way to the far end, where I found a couple, Laura and Erik of www.montillamorileswines.com, who are looking to introduce a range of Montilla-Moriles wines to the UK. These are made in the same way as Sherry but can't be called Sherry. I am very partial to a sherry, especially a sweeter one, see my recent article on Seville, so I tried the organic Oloroso from Bodegas Robles. It was lovely, a rich caramel colour, slightly sweet to the taste with toffee and dried fruit notes. A bit Christmas Pudding like. I was getting good at this tasting lark.
Next door but one, to the sherry wines was the California Wines table. In the brochure one particular name had caught my eye, Gnarly Head. I had no idea what sort of wine it was but the name appealed to me. It turned out that this wine is grown inland in the Lodi Valley, part way between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which boasts a climate similar to the Mediterranean. The original vines were planted during the Gold Rush and the industry has been growing ever since, even during Prohibition. It is said, by the growers in the region, to be the Zinfandel capital of the world. The Gnarly Head red wine I sampled was the Old Vine Zinfandel, of which the tasting notes boast, ‘This intrepid Old Vine Zinfandel has a gnarly core of rich, jammy blackberries and mocha flavors with layers of spice and vanilla balanced by complex French and American oak toast. Try pairing this bold wine with braised short ribs, chicken enchiladas or dark chocolate.’ I thought it was a really smooth, fruity red that would work well with food or just for drinking.
A space had appeared at the Champagne Deutz table so I hot footed over. I am partial to a drop of bubbly. One of the original champagne houses, Duetz was a favourite of Queen Victoria and one of the most popular brands available. However, due to its Germanic sounding name it fell out of favour after the outbreak of the First World War. There were two bottles to sample; the Brut Classic non-vintage and the Brut Vintage 2009. I tried the non-vintage first and found it quite heavy with a strange taste but the Vintage was delicious. Light, floral, fruity and creamy.
At this point, someone rang a huge Alpine cow bell and Sorcha took to the stage to thank everyone for coming and to announce the winner of the Lazenne Elite Winecheck luggage case and then I had to leave to catch the train.
During the course of the evening, I met some fascinating people, such as wine author, Simon Woods, who has recently released a book I should probably buy called ‘I don’t know much about wine, but I know what I like.’ Also, Lisa Moreton of the Manchester Wine School, who runs all manner of wine appreciation courses and qualifications. They do a cheese and wine matching evening that I quite fancy. Food and wine in one hit, what’s not to like?
Overall, as a wine tasting novice, I had had a very enjoyable time and I feel as though I did learn something along the way. I also thought that at £15 a head, with the possibility of trying over 30 wines, plus snacks from Manchester firm, Ten Acres, it represented excellent value. Maybe I’ll become a wine connoisseur after all.
Photos: ©#ukwinehour | Photographer: Nick Kypriadis