*Review by invite by Thirty Fifty Wine Tasting – all opinions expressed are my own*

Are you a wine aficionado who can skim read a wine list in 10 seconds flat and order with the confidence of The Wine Show wine expert Joe Fattorini? Or are you more of a cowardy custard who breaks out into a sweat at the approaching sommelier? You are not alone. According to a new study*, a whopping 73% of Brits admit to feeling intimidated by restaurant wine lists. Nearly 60% felt under-confident with their lack of wine knowledge, whilst 36% were clueless when passed a taster glass of wine by the sommelier.

I love food and drink matching, and I am always learning. It is after all good to learn and broaden those horizons. I hate not knowing things that I feel I should know. I’ll give you an example. I hate maths with the intensity of a thousand suns. Yes I got a respectable C at school, but should you present me with a list of numbers, I will automatically glaze over due to my vision of numbers swimming in front of my eyes.

Not wanting to be held hostage to my fear of maths, I successfully applied for a job at NatWest, where I would help customers with their banking transactions and advise on upgraded accounts (yes I was that person, please forgive me).  In preparation for that role, I even learnt the times table. I counted thousands of pounds and learnt to do calculations on the fly. And you know you what? It wasn’t that bad. I am not scared of maths anymore, but I will never love it and always use my mobile phone calculator for any calculation that arises.

Circling back to wine, I have always been interested in this delicious drink. More specifically, food and drink matching is where my true passion lies. I love the idea of identifying ingredients in a dish, and matching a wine with an appropriate flavour profile to pair with the dish. I have numerous books on wine and I am constantly learning about wine and wine matching, to help me make informed choices.

When I spoke to Ainsley Harriott about wine-matching recently (he was hosting a food matching event at The Bolton Food and Drink Festival), he said he doesn’t get too bogged down with wine-matching, and just opens a bottle he feels will go with the dish.

Whether you make an educated guess, or glean information from wine tomes, wherever you stand on the wine confidence level, I think wine tastings are a great way to learn and educate oneself.

I was invited by Thirty Fifty Wine to their ‘Tasting Evening with Canapés’ at The City Rooms, Hotel Street, Leicester. Imposing and grandiose architecture aside – I half expected Bruce Wayne to emerge from one of the wings (see what I did there?), it was an easily accessible building. Smiling concierge deposited us to the right room, and it was soon after that the wine tasting commenced. Our wine hostess with the mostess was a genteel lady called Anissa Djebailia. With a twinkle in her eye, she handed out marking sheets for each table (accommodating five) displayed in a theatre style formation.

The format was an introduction to wine, the various regions, how to taste wine, then the tasting itself.

It was a great way to spend two hours learning about wine whilst keeping warm and away from the cold rain (I hate the cold, and rain, so together, I deem it a most frightful combination). Although it was a structured wine tasting, Anissa interspersed the educational wine talk with her knowledge and experience of wines she has tasted over the years. Nuggets of information gleaned over the course of the evening included the benefits of tannin, discovering the difference between New World and Old World wines, how acidic wines make you salivate more, and an in-depth discussion of wine reputations and versatility of use as both an ingredient and as part of a wine-flight.

Here are the wines which we tasted, along with my personal ratings out of 5; the higher the number, the more favourable it was on my palate:

Wine Name My Rating
La Loupe Grenache Blanc France 2017  2
Spy Valley Riesling Marlborough NZ 2015   3
Fattoria di Basciano Chianti Rufina DOCG Italy 2015 3
Catena Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina 2016 4
Catena Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2015   3
Tenuta Neirano Barbera d’Asti Superiore Italy 2015 3
Mosketto Frizzante Piemonte Italy NV  5

I have a very sweet tooth, and prefer my wine to lean on the sweeter side. I would have loved to see a rosé wine on the tasting list, however a wine that I fell in love with was the sweet Mosketto Frizzante Piemonte. It was a Moscato-Brachetto blend, with fragrant notes of lightly spiced apple and fresh peach. I will be ordering this from Thirty Fifty, just in time for the festive season.

What I loved about the Thirty Fifty wine tasting, is that the marks you gave to the wine scribbled on the paper, were collated and emailed to you within the week. You were then given the option to buy your preferred wines that marked highly, online, and without the need to call or speak to anyone. I think the setting up of an online account along with a password too, is a great idea. By placing the customer firmly at the forefront of their minds, Thirty Fifty are removing any obstacles that you might self-impose (reasons such as “I can’t be bothered to set up an account, I’ll order later”).

I would love to see a wine- and food-matched event, where the food aspect is explored in great depth. As it was, the canapés were great, which we nibbled on during the break.

I had great fun, along with my plus one on the Thirty Fifty wine tasting night, and highly recommend a Thirty Fifty wine tasting.

For more information about Thirty Fifty, please visit their website now. 

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