Wine Tasting

Wine rules are made to be broken.

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Wine tasting is subjective. It should be fun. There are no rights and wrongs.

There are a lot of connoisseurs, but at the end of the day its your opinion that counts. Do you like it?

I believe a fine bottle can be enhanced when shared with friends and ruined if you are out of sorts or fighting with your partner.

Ultimately wine should bring enjoyment, richness and happiness to your life. Its about sharing moments with people you love and care about. You have chosen a bottle to share to friends and celebrate milestones. Make it a souvenir to treasure.

Some of the statements I made on wine tasting could upset many serious wine lovers. In fact many of my wine colleagues around the world would be horrified that I am admitting them. I believe that wine and food pairing are all about the optimum taste. Deriving the ultimate flavours from sipping the wine in your glass.

Chefs are allowed to add salt and pepper, herbs and spices to their food. Im not suggesting this, but little tweaks help me enjoy a wine to suit my palate.

  • Chilling red wines enhances the flavour by focussing on the fruit while chilling the alcohol. Winemakers want wines filled with fruit and so they pick the grapes when they are riper. The sugar in the grape converts to alcohol and carbon dioxide which is given off as a gas. When the alcohol is too high, it is fluffy, hot and alcoholic on the nose. Chilling it brings the beautiful fruit flavours into balance and tailors the alcohol.
  • Decanting white wines high in alcohol or with big flavour profiles, allows these flavours to expand, mature and develop to their fullest potential in minutes. Great Chardonnays and Burgundies benefit from decanting so that you can appreciate their nuances and complexity. Champagne can be beautiful when decanted, although this will rid the wine of some of the bubbles.
  • Serving wines in a larger glass. Europeans save the large glass for the water and use the smaller glass for the wine. I prefer the larger glass for both red or white wine so that the wine flavours can develop in the glass. Today we can enjoy glasses made for wine tastings and for specific grape varieties to ensure you can get the best from its delicate flavours.
  • Serving older Champagnes in a wine glass rather than a flute. The brioche, butter and yeast flavours of a mature Champagne can open up and blossom in a larger glass to reveal its complexity and richness. The bubbles will not last as long, yet as I drink it fairly rapidly, they will stand the test of time!
  • The last rule I break shocks tasters and winemakers more than all the others put together. As mentioned my aim is to taste the flavours of wine and food. These enhance the taste of life. If I open a bottle of wine at home and I am disappointed by its flavour, I am happy to blend it with another bottle. I don’t to this to insult the winemaker or winery, I simply to do it to create a beautiful wine for my own enjoyment. Blending can be with another grape, label or even country. The aim is to get the optimum taste from the wine in my glass for my own enjoyment.
    • You can blend
      • lighter wines with fuller styles
      • younger wines with older wines
      • spicey, tannic wines with fruitier styles

Wine tasting should be fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Taste, enjoy and share. Life is too short to drink bad wine so if you don’t like it, open another bottle.

“À votre santé or Bottoms up!”

food&wine chart

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Explanation of the Food & Wine Chart

Food and wine tasting chart The French are considered the masters of cuisine internationally. They have the most Michelin chefs in the world. Children are encouraged to taste, comment and become discerning. They are taught to say “Bon app” an abreviation for Bon appétit before every meal, a saying that French in high circles think is poor manners. They talk about food all the time and which wines should be paired with each dish.

Wines from the Burgundy region were traditionally paired with creamy sauces to compliment the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The Claret of Bordeaux were bought and cellared by the British and pairs perfectly to their Sunday Roast with three veg. The Muscadets of the Loire Valley are gorgeous with oysters and shellfish, their Chenins with their softer peachy, honeyed flavours perfect with spice and herbs. The Provencal cuisine ideally matched their rosé’s which make up the biggest wine style in the world. Spicy dishes and stir fry complement the gewürztraminer and steely Rieslings from Alsace. And Champagne? … well Champagne is an aperitif for all the other wine producing regions.

Wine and food pairings are in vogue, few of which actually work as the ideal match takes a sensitive chef and a clear understanding of the protein used as well as its seasonings.

While you can drink anything with any dish nowadays, traditional tastes are still a good rule of thumb.

Here is a chart I did many many years ago, however it is still one hundred percent valid as a source for traditional pairing. Bon appétit

Introduction to grapes and symbols

Juliet Cullinan wine symbols

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Juliet Cullinan designed the first wine symbols to visually describe the structure of wine, without having to write it out longhand.

Juliet Cullinan designed wine images to visually describe the aromas of different grape varieties.

Having analysed the grape personalities, I designed a wine glass filled with the ingredients conveying each flavour profile. They have become grape flavours set in emulsion, described aromas visually. I had the artwork printed in Paris and launched the visual concept of tasting wine to the international media at the Gourmet Voice in Cannes in January 2006. They were a world first and an evolution in wine appreciation.

Flavours in Food

In allowing people to taste the flavours, I added specific ingredients to the global stable diet – bread.  Its’ neutral taste welcomes ingredients and moulds itself effortlessly into creative shapes.   Guests could experience the grape visually and then taste its flavour profiles in a stylish environment.  The experience was another world first.