Wine should be a difficult liquid to speak of in absolutes. Yet we all do – every day spouting sentiments such as ‘I hate red wine’ or ‘I can’t stand Chardonnay’ and in one fell swoop we rule out entire varieties, entire colours. And it certainly isn’t true – who has tried every expression of Chardonnay or for that matter every red wine?
Knowing what you do and don’t like when it comes to wine should be a subtle affair, it’s acknowledging the differences of land, of weather, of producer. It means any bottle could hold a wine that you’ll fall in love with, equally one that will wrinkle your nose and offend every taste bud on your tongue.
Our DrinkUp.London team had an opportunity, one that is now available to everyone with £29 in their back pocket, to go through a tasting of five whites and five reds, blind to our usual prejudices, and discover what our palate really took a shine to. This opportunity came from Honest Grapes, a website which acts as a bit of a farmer’s market for quality wine. Now they’re created a Taste Lab Kit which is posted to your front door.
It was on one of the last days of London’s barely-there summer that the Honest Grapes team led us through the tasting in Soho’s Quo Vadis. Nathan Hill, the Chairman and resident scientist, has managed to bring his love of technology and wine together in these smart tasting kits. “We want to get people excited about artisanal wine as opposed to the supermarket brands which have downgraded our expectations. Those wines are merely an approximation of what wine should taste like,” he says.
Working with the company’s affable Wine Director Tom Harrow, the pair came up with the idea of passing on their own enthusiasm by opening up people’s expectations of what they enjoy. The basic pack is £29 which includes 10 of the elegant test tube 50ml samples of premium quality artisanal wines, literature on the test including your questionarie to help with the tasting, your personal wine profile being formulated and a £5 gift voucher towards buying wines on the site.
And what an eye-opener the Taste Lab Kit is!
Walking into the room I was fairly certain this would only confirm my choices of wine and what I knew of my palate. An ardent dislike for Chardonnay and a general confusion over red wine mentioned earlier weren’t plucked from the ether – these were my initial thoughts. I’ve had a real issue with red wine since I began to drink, nothing was standing out as particularly delicious. As for Chardonnay, well I simply thought of it as a supermarket wine, blind to the big buttery varietals out there. I only really drank powerful, acidic Rieslings because they never disappointed.
Going through the kit, we were asked questions about what we smelt, what we tasted, which was sweeter, which was more citrusy, fresh, berry-like. What was absolutely incredible was how our team differed in response. My boss, Hannah Sharman-Cox, and I can never drink a bottle of wine together it turns out for each wine I loved she found the most offensive. There goes a team night out. Luckily I have found a fellow drinking companion our London Wine Week festival director Emma Murphy.
As we loosened into the tasting it became very enjoyable – a perfect dinner party game where our opposite palates seemed comical rather than divisive. And it turns out there are some white styles I enjoy more than I imagined, and some reds as well, although mostly new world wines which I identified time and again as being a favourites. From there we’re all able to take our personal wine palate to the Honest Grapes website and get a mixed case back of wines which we’ll really love. Overall this was a perfect starting point to expand, to explore and to enjoy better wines. And for £29 it’s actually an incredible bargain.
Final thoughts from the team:
Hannah: I was fascinated to see how we each tasted wine so differently… I (wrongly) assumed we might have similar tastes and palates, but instead there was a definite divide. And having an 'expert’ reaffirm my wine preferences was quietly reassuring!
Emma: A blind tasting is such a great way to expand wine knowledge – completely shaking up preconceptions on what we expect from certain wines and price points. The taste lab kit brilliantly puts that into a light hearted and fun experience for wine drinkers of any level. It was a really enjoyable tasting and getting a clear flavour profile at the end is fantastic!
If you'd like to try the Honest Grapes Taste Lab Kit click HERE for more details.