And the Winner Is …

I was reminded again recently of the role that sharing wine can have in igniting enthusiasm and making new friends.

As I mentioned in my last column, I had been invited by the staff of the Yukon Arts Centre to help them offer up a wine tasting as part of the launch of their new arts season.

So last week, I came up after work and helped them set up a selection of three white wines, and four red wines, as well as some cheeses and chocolate brownies to nibble on while the wines were tasted.

After a preview of some of the films and shows that will be presented this season was completed, people began to emerge from the concert space, and into the lobby, and serve themselves some hotdogs and hamburgers, and begin to express interest in what we were doing for the tasting.

We explained that for $10 they could sample seven different wines, then vote for their favourites, which would, in turn, be the selections served at the bar during intermissions this coming season.

The fun thing about wine tastings is that you usually get to sample a far broader selection of wines than you can cover at a restaurant or bar. At a restaurant, even with another couple or two, you might try only one or two bottles over the course of a meal.

Even if you are ordering wine by the glass, you’re not likely to try more than three or so.

At a wine tasting, the serving sizes are considerably smaller, only one to two ounces, compared to the four to six in a regular glass of wine.

That is true at a vineyard, and at events such as the upcoming Canvas Confidential at the Old Fire Hall on September 22, or the annual Rotary Wine Festival at the Whitehorse Convention Centre on October 18.

If you pace yourself, drink some water between the wines you taste, and have some food as you go, there is the opportunity to try an interesting range of wines.

As well, I see people both interacting with the pourers, and comparing notes with their friends, as they try to identify the tastes they sense.

When I work with people to orchestrate tasting wines, I do a little research on the vineyards, grapes or regions the wines come from, and try to identify at least one taste that most people should be able to look for and identify as they taste a wine.

But I always encourage people to try to identify tastes that they detect, then to see if their friends are tasting the same notes.

It’s amazing how different the tastes we identify in the wines are, and that’s all part of the fun!

We gave each participant three beads to vote with and deposit in a glass corresponding to each of their three favourite wines after they had completed the tasting.

Here are some of the things that we learned from the tasting:

Tasting wines without, and then with, foods makes an incredible difference! Even with a simple cube of cheese to nibble on, over and over people remarked on how different the wines tasted.

We encouraged them to try each wine by itself, and then take a bite of the cheese, or brownie, and then try the wine again.

Several of the white wines, in particular, seemed unremarkable to people tasting them, but once they took a bite of cheese, they began to taste notes of citrus in the Pellar Estates Proprietors Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (around $19) and a clear hint of apple in the Little Black Dress Pinot Grigio ($15.40).

The Gray Monk Unwooded Chardonnay ($20.65) also had its advocates.

The red wines were even more fun!

When we tallied up the beads at the end of the evening, something immediately became evident. NOT ONE person had voted for the selected Painted Turtle Shiraz ($11.90 at the Yukon Liquor Corp.), which was served all last season at the bar.

I suspect it has just been “voted off the island”!

Both the California red, Little Black Dress Merlot ($15.45), and the Argentinean Bodega Norten Lotengo Malbec ($15.40) had their proponents.

The Little Black Dress had genuine tasting hints of classic French Bordeaux (not surprising, as Merlot is one of the grapes used in making Bordeaux wines); the Malbec had very noticeable, and nice, tobacco notes… a great way to experience one of the classic taste adjectives wine drinkers use to describe some red wines.

The clear favourite, though, was the Ménage à Trois ($19.65), a fun California blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.

Granted, we may have swayed people’s opinions by serving it with a chocolate brownie, but the chocolate and the rich fruity taste of the three-grape blend was the crowd pleaser of the of the evening!

The staff of the Yukon Art Centre is contemplating serving the wine and chocolate together as a taste combination at the bar this season, an idea I find exciting and wholeheartedly support!

If you missed this wine tasting, don’t despair, there are two fine wine events coming in September and October, as mentioned above.

I’ll miss the first, but hope to help out at the second.

If tasting wines sounds like fun, consider coming to one or both of these events. They raise money for good causes in the community, and may broaden your wine tasting experience!

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