Sunday, 30 November 2014


On Thursday night we had an early christmas/team building dinner with my work team.  After much deliberation and then much negotiation, we opted for a private hosted wine tasting session at Vinopolis, followed by a self guided tour, followed by a 3 course meal.

I am not much of a wine buff and so it didn't really interest me, but I could see how others might find it interesting.  We learnt about different alcohol strengths and how you can tell by swirling it round in the glass and looking at the 'legs' dripping down.  The more legs you have, the higher the alcohol content.  Other things I learned included:

  • Corked wine is only corked if the cork is bad, a wine isn't necessarily 'corked' if you find bits of cork floating in it - smell it first to see if it smells bad.

  • Wine is usually only produced in a narrow band of latitude around the world, usually between latitudes 30 and 50, however other countries (maybe due to global warming, but mostly due to technology advancement) these latitudes are expansing, to include countries such as Thailand. 

  • Darker wines are made in warmer climates, and lighter coloured wines (both red and white) are made in cooler climates.

  • As red wines get older, they become lighter, whereas white wines get darker with age. 

  • Contrary to popular belief (well, my belief!), white wine can be made with both red and white grapes.  The main difference between red and white is that white wines are fermented with out the grape skin, whilst red wine the skins remain the grape. 

One we had an introduction to wine, we were taught how to taste 6 different wines, 3 white and 3 red.  The principles of wine tasting are made up of the 5 S's:

See - hold the wineglass by the base/stem so as not to warm the wine (if you're a wine buff this is very important - the lady kept telling us to hurry up with our session as the white wines were getting warmer by the minute, I explained we weren't connoisseurs and wouldn't be able to tell the difference in flavours between warm and cold white wine).  Look at the colour and you can work out if it's a young or old wine, and check to see if it's hazy or not.

Swirl - swirl the wine by the base of the glass and you'll be able to spot the legs to work out the rough alcohol content.  Swirling also releases the aromas.

Smell - take a good deep sniff.  You should be able to pick up hints of fruits or minerals.  I don't think my nose works very well because to me, all white wine smells of cat's piss and red wine smells of cork.  Apart from the last wine we tasted which stank of cheese!  That was a bit weird.

Sip - this bit made me laugh.  Apparently to truly appreciate the flavour of the wine, you sip a small bit in your mouth, then gargle/suck it through your lips.  My boss took great pleasure in gurgling the wine in my ear and acting like an embarrassing dad, which I happily told him.  You gargle to make the air go through the wine which intensifies the flavours. Different parts of your tongue will also pick up different tastes (salt, sweet, sour). 

Spit or swallow - this is your choice and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! This goes for wine tasting too...

After the hosted session, we were let loose with little credit cards preloaded with 8 tokens.  Vinopolis has had a technological facelift since the last time I was in there, and the credit card replaces the actual tokens you were given in previous years.  All of the wine is now in refrigerated vending machines, which when operated with your card, dribble out a tiny bit of wine into your glass.  There's quite a selection to choose from, but I headed straight for the 'Spirit Lounge' where they had 4 different Absinthes, 3 different Vodkas and a beautifully smooth gin.

A member of staff was on hand to show me what to do with the Absinthe - I went for the original Parisien absinthe, which is bright green.  A sugar cube was dunked in absinthe, then balanced over the absinthe on a spoon, and set alight.  It is allowed to burn for a few minutes, then dropped into the green pool below.  Cold water is added and the sugar mixed in, and then you're allowed to drink it.  It tasted like liquid Atomic Fireballs.

After spending the rest of my tokens on a variety of wine and spirits, we had a final G&T before sitting down for our meal.

If you have lots of wine buffs (or alcoholics) in your company, I would recommend it as an easy place for a corporate event - everything's in one area so it's easy to control herd everyone, and it was quite good value for money, plus the alcohol loosens everyone up.

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