What do you think of this?

Working in the wine industry, you sometimes get friends or colleagues thrusting a glass into your hand asking for your thoughts.  I usually start by describing the wine – its fruit character, its balance, its length – and then wait for the inevitable follow up: ‘but what do you think of it?’  This is easy when the wine is very good or has some particularly attractive quality to comment on but can be tricky otherwise.  Even if the wine is pleasant but nothing special, someone has worked hard to make it and I don’t like to disappoint.  So, I sometimes reach for words like ‘unusual’, ‘different’ or even ‘interesting’.  (Apologies to readers who have heard those words about a wine they have offered me!)

More challenging is when I’m also expected to identify the wine in the glass.  ‘Blind tasting’, as it is called, is incredibly difficult at the best of times but almost impossible without context; so, if I’m in Burgundy, for example, I’m expecting the wine to be local, which narrows the likely possibilities.  Similarly, if I’m with friends, I tend to know their tastes, which may be reflected in the wine they offer me. 

But there’s one grape variety that is so distinctive that I would expect to identify it blind 8 times out of 10: Gewűrztraminer.  Native to Germany and the Alsace region in north-east France, it stamps its aromatic, floral, almost perfumed character on nearly every wine its used in.  We took a bottle of the Wine Society’s Exhibition Alsace Gewűrztraminer (£16.00) to a good friend recently and it had all those expected qualities and more.  The flavours were delicate yet, at the same time, intense and rich.  Just off-dry, it went perfectly with a mildly spiced Keralan Chicken curry that she cooked for us – the fragrance of the wine complementing the aromatic spices beautifully.

A wine with really ‘interesting’ and ‘unusual’ characteristics – but in a good way!


The Coffee Test

How do you like your coffee? Black? With Milk?

Coffee Test

That may sound a strange question on a Wine Blog but one man doesn’t think so. I was watching an episode of ‘The Wine Show at Home’ on You Tube recently and the presenter, Joe Fattorini, mentioned Master of Wine Tim Hanni’s ‘coffee test’. I’d not heard of it before but Tim believes that, depending on your answers to 5 simple questions, you can find out the type of wines you ought to be buying. I was fascinated, so googled the questions:

  1. Do you prefer your coffee/tea black?
  2. Do you like the taste of scotch?
  3. Do you prefer salty snacks over sweet snacks?
  4. Do you prefer semi-sweet dark chocolate to sweet milk chocolate?
  5. Do you think that cream/sugar in coffee/tea ruins it?

For every ‘yes’, score 2 points, for a ‘sometimes’ or ‘maybe’ score 1 point and for ‘no’ score 0.

Then add up your points. The higher you score (maximum 10), the more tolerant you are likely to be of intensely flavoured or tannic wines (or, similarly, powerfully flavoured foods). So, if you are up around 7 – 10 points, you’ll enjoy strongly flavoured foods but also big, rich, flavoursome wines.  You may find lighter wine styles quite insipid.

Scores between 4 – 6 show some sensitivity to tannins, bitterness and acidity in wine. You’ll probably prefer smooth reds and lighter whites, although may grow to appreciate some fuller flavoured reds or whites. As for foods, you’ll be happy with a range of tastes.

If you scored 3 or fewer, you are hyper-sensitive to tastes (and, as a result, would be a very good wine taster). Tannins, bitterness and acidity in wine will all hit you hard and you’ll prefer more delicate reds, lighter, more subtle whites and will delight in elegant, restrained food flavours.

My wife and I both did the test. I scored 4 which is, perhaps, a bit lower than I might have expected, but Hilary’s score, 7, is almost the opposite of the truth.

So, based on this very limited sample, I have some doubts, but do try the coffee test for yourself and I’d be interested to hear how it works for you.