Last month, ‘Voice of a GTO’ reviewed walking tours of vineyards and wine tasting in England’s South Downs. Groups don’t need to take to the road – or footpaths – in order to sample world wines under expert guidance however; experts will come to a venue of your choice to conduct a specialist and bespoke wine tasting for your group
Whether your group is interested in wine, is expert in the subject or is made up of complete novices who fancy trying something new, a private tasting organised for the location and time that suits everyone is a fantastic group activity that can cost surprisingly little. Group trips and events that make things easy for the GTO are obviously popular and there could hardly be anything simpler than arranging a private wine tasting. Specialist tasting companies will come to your venue, whether it is a hall, club room or private home, with the only stipulations usually being that there is a large enough table and preferably a sink somewhere. They will bring all necessary items with them, including multiple glasses per person, information sheets, nibbles and of course plenty of bottles of wine. Group members have little to do but sit back, enjoy the expert advice and learn something new, with ample time for questions and sampling of course.
Hannibal Brown Wines, ‘for explorers of great wine’, launched only a year ago. An online wine merchant based in Epsom, in addition to offering a personal wine delivery service they run regular tastings. Hannibal Brown wines come from all around the world and all are personally chosen for their quality and for the credibility of the vineyards and makers behind them; this is no supermarket plonk, but instead comes from artisan producers who follow organic or natural winemaking principles. Interestingly, there is evidence that demonstrates that such wines are unlikely to leave you with a headache the next morning – surely an added bonus!
Using appropriate quality glassware, typically a glass of fizz might begin proceedings and get everyone in the mood for an enjoyable experience. The expert from Hannibal Brown will then guide the group through a tasting of about 6 to 10 different wines, a mixture of reds and whites unless stipulated otherwise by the group. Advice on how to swirl correctly, how to smell and discuss the aromas and how to describe the flavours helps everyone to get the most from the event and pick up some handy tips for the future. Along with information about the vineyards and winemakers behind each of the wines, the Hannibal Brown informal, friendly style invites open discussion about the wines and opinions of each one, as well as suggestions for the sorts of food that might go with each. Their approach to tastings – expert yet completely free from snobbery – means that all group members from experts to beginners feel comfortable expressing their opinions, with no ideas ridiculed or dismissed. Expert pointers and tips direct the conclusions in the right direction without being overbearing or patronising; surely the sign of good teaching.
At the end of the tasting, there is of course an opportunity to buy bottles of any tipple that has been particularly enjoyed, and the very reasonable prices and special offers are likely to entice group members to indulge in their favourites. Bottles that have been opened for sampling but are unfinished can be left for the group to enjoy too. Hannibal Brown wine tastings usually include a competition with prizes included in the overall event price, and the tasting can of course be tailored as a quiz if requested. The highly flexible, personal service that the company offers means that they will work with a group organiser beforehand to develop exactly the right sort of event, for the right budget, and can advise on aspects such as location.
Our choice of top quality tipples to get your group started on their exploration of great wines
SPARKLING – Champagne JACQUART (rosé)
rrp £19, stockists include www.majestic.co.uk
Begun in 1962, Champagne JACQUART was initiated by a group of visionary winegrowers who decided to offer Champagne lovers a brand that is born in the vineyard, not in the boardroom. That commitment and dedication of the growers remains to this day, and the group now represents one of the largest sources of grapes in the entire Champagne region, covering some 2,400 hectares. This cuvée has Chardonnay finesse rounded out by the ripeness of the Pinot Meunier and the structure of the Pinot Noir, of which 15%-18% is vinified as red wine. The addition of Pinot Noir red wine to the blend results in a very complete, balanced Champagne that is a beautiful intense salmon pink in colour. On the nose, the aromas are ripe redcurrants, cherries and wild strawberries which give way to notes of plum. The flavour is fresh and full, with a finish that introduces notes of peach and apricot.
WHITE – Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc
rrp £14.99, stockists include D.Byrne & Co and www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk
With a history stretching back to 1700, the Vergelegen estate in South Africa produces renowned wines that have won over 200 awards in the last decade alone. The design of the winery is based on principles such as gentle handling, visual control and natural gravity flow, ensuring an end product that is of the highest quality. The sauvignon blanc is pale straw in colour, with a nose that indicates passion fruit, green fig, guava and lemon and grapefruit notes. Upon drinking, this wine is fresh, beautifully balanced and lively on the palate with a long aftertaste.
RED – Esk Valley Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec
rrp £14.99, stockists include www.oxfordwine.co.uk
Situated in the north of New Zealand’s picturesque Hawkes Bay, the Esk Valley Estate winery sources very local fruit as the region consistently produces grapes of an extremely high quality. They use traditional, hands-on techniques rather than relying on modern technology to produce their wines. This full-bodied rich Hawkes Bay blend is densely coloured, with a bouquet of dark fruits and subtle oak seasoning. The palate is softly textured and generous in nature. Due to its well ripened tannins, it can be enjoyed as a young wine although it also shows the potential to age gracefully for many years gaining further complexity.