So you know me and you know how much I know and love my desserts, but ask me about wine, and the only things I know about wines are the color differences, and that some are sweet and others are not.
And soon, on Thursday, May 26, 2016, I roll into Artcaffe Grand on the ground floor of the Westgate Shopping Centre with my aunt, a red wine aficionado, at 6:45pm. It is relatively busy indoors.
A waitress escorts me out by the doors to the terrace. I wait by the door as she quickly assembles a small team of staff to help me down the two steps. It seems so silly to me that there is no ramp there, yet it would have made life so much easier for me and the Artcaffe staff who help me down. Then, I still have to go down one more step to access the private terrace area where the wine tasting was taking place.
Finally, after some tactful maneuvering, I reach the wine tasting venue. I quickly register, get my paper wristband, my wine tasting card, and a pen. The wine tasting sheets we get have the characteristics of the various red wines (based on grape variety) we were going to taste that evening on one side, while the other side has a table, where we can note the aroma and flavor descriptions and then decide which wine we had tasted, based on the hints and the characteristics of the wine.
One of the very friendly and caring hosts takes me over to the little tasting area they had set aside for me since I’m too short (on my wheelchair) for the average bar table. They have little stations at each bar table. Each station serves a different type of red wine: ranging from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot to Pinotage to Malbec, paired with some food. They have also got various posters around the terrace with infographics on red wine. One of the hosts brings me my first glass of wine, as I opt to stay put in my little private tasting area, to avoid bumping into other people (and probably running over their feet). Plus, I just got plain lazy as I could easily people-watch from where I was seated. She also brought me the clues: two wine glasses, one filled with rose petals and the other with toffee. Ah, it smelt so sweet!
Onto my first wine, this is an earthy, dark-red wine with hints of caramel and cherry. It has aromas of vanilla and cherry. It is sweet but still earthy. A pinot noir! This is paired with a salmon appetizer. Since I’m vegetarian, I skipped this one.
And just like, I moved on to the next one. This came with two hints: black peppercorns and berries. The wine – a Malbec – is full-bodied (though some may say it is medium-bodied, depending on where the wine is from). It is rather dry and spicy from the black pepper but the berries added a little sweetness. It also has intense, oaky aromas with hints of cherry. This wine, too, is paired with a non-vegetarian dish, a spicy beef appetizer, so I did not try it.
As I get my third glass, the rest of the friends and family of our group – all wine enthusiasts – join us. They are running late. As they get started on their tasting, I indulge in some of the food left to pair with the wines. I try some antipasto served on top of a sliced baguette. It is delicious.
And then back to the wine! The third wine I try is a Merlot. The hints are chocolate and clove. The wine is sweet yet smoky, so basically it is semi-sweet with hints of chocolate and plum. I smell clove as I swirl the glass. This was quite heavenly!Then the fourth wine. I know. A lot of drinking. The clues are licorice and plum. This wine is bold and smoky, yet it releases a sweet berry aroma. A Pinotage – one of my faves that evening 😉 It is paired with eggplant, which is delectable.
Lastly, onto the fifth wine. The hints are black peppercorns and cigarettes (perhaps, to hint at tobacco). The medium-bodied wine is spicy and dry with the strong taste of black pepper, tobacco, and oak spice. I think this is my least favorite wine of all that I have tried tonight. It is paired with beetroot, which I did not try. Don’t ask me why 🙂Once everybody had tasted all the wines, we write down our answers as to which wine is which as per the clues and characteristics of the various grape varieties given to us. Then, after all, the correct answers are vetted, they are entered into a raffle draw.
The first winner announced wins third prize. Suddenly I hear my name: “Jaini Shah – second prize”. To my surprise, I had actually guessed the wines correctly based on the hints, aroma and taste and so I won a bottle of wine – 2014 Tilia Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina along with a wine aerator. Subsequently, the last winner is awarded the first prize – more wine.
The wine tasting ends. The event was well-organized with knowledgeable hosts, who are quick to offer any assistance needed. The beautiful signs and decor were a great touch to encourage people to mingle.
We head to dinner, just at Artcaffe Grand. Later on, I head home,
tipsy wine-happy and my prize in hand.
Photos, unless otherwise stated, are courtesy of SHK Consulting.
Disclaimer: Though I got a complimentary ticket to the tasting, all views are entirely my own.