As you know I’m on a mission to learn about the type of wine I like at the moment, so I was very excited to be invited to a wine tasting event at The Royal Horseguards hotel in London. Not only would I be able to try some new wines but I would get expert guidance with it as well.
The Royal Horseguards Hotel
The Royal Horseguards is a five star hotel near Westminster overlooking the Thames and London Eye. It was built in 1883 as the National Liberal Club which still occupies one section of the building. The architectural style really appeals to me with three of my favourite things: beautiful staircase, chandeliers and of course, gorgeous Christmas decorations (including many edible ones). I’m not sure I’ve been anywhere where the staff were so polite and helpful. As I was leaving I commented that they didn’t have any cookies left and I’d wanted to eat one on the train, so the concierge went around the Christmas display to get me lots of chocolates, which my children appreciated the next day.
However, I didn’t spend the evening in one of the beautiful rooms. Instead our venue was through a hidden rather plain and ordinary door down to the wine cellar complete with the original system to move wine barrels and a bricked up passageway rumoured to have been used by Winston Churchill during the second world war.
The Wine Tasting
The wine tasting was led by Kelly Bayliffe an American who has set up her own company Tastour based in London. Not only does she know her stuff she shares it in a fun way, so I spent most of the evening alternating between tasting wine, writing notes and laughing. I enjoyed the session so much I admit at the end of the session I didn’t just thank Kelly, I gave her a big hug; maybe the wine had reduced my inhibitions a bit!
We tasted seven wines, all selected from Royal Horseguards cellar; 3 sparkling, 2 white and 2 red.
- Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne
- Chapel Down Brut Blanc de Blancs
- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
- Saint Veran Chardonnay
- Gamay-Pinot Noir Coteaux Bouruignons Rouge
- Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon
- Prosecco that I don’t have the details for
It wasn’t a surprise to me that my favourites were the Prosecco and the last, rich red (Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon), although I’d be quite happy to drink the sparkling wine (Chapel Down Brut Blanc de Blancs) again. The Chardonnay (Saint Veran) was a revelation to me; I generally don’t enjoy drinking white wine, but really quite it enjoyed it – but only once it had warmed up.
Wine tasting tips
Here are some of the other things I learnt:
- There are 12 main international grape varieties but 4000 in total
- If you can’t smell you can’t taste so only drink cheap wine when you have a blocked nose
- The taste of a good quality wine lasts longer in your mouth so you drink less as you don’t drink as often; the time difference can be as much as 30 seconds
- You can smell better quality wine when the glass is further from your nose; if you need to put your nose in the glass it is not good
- If a restaurant or bar sells wine by the glass you should be able to get a sample before you buy a glass or bottle
- There are apps to record wine you drink (so maybe I don’t need my wine spreadsheet)
- In France if the vineyard has AOC (controlled designation of origin) the label may not state the grape variety because they expect you to know, for example the only white wine grown in Burgundy is Chardonnay
- “Corked” wine doesn’t have cork in it, but TCA (trichloroanisole) which is a natural compound that originates from the cork and give the wine a musty flavour (drinking wine with screw tops is a good way of preventing TCA)
And that reminds me we really need to get some proper wine storage as our bottles are in the cardboard boxes we bought them in, and dare I admit upright so the corks are probably drying out!
I had a lot of fun during the evening and learnt lots, but also learnt that there is so much more to learn about wine. What would you like to learn about wine?
Thank you to Joe Blogs for allowing me to use some of their photographs of the evening.