One of our guest contributors has recently attended the Rose Murray Brown four week “Drinking with Style Series” wine tasting course.
After attending the Comic Relief Wine Tasting at the Assembly Rooms I was keen to enhance my tastebuds even further, so when I saw the website of Rose Murray Brown (who organised the comic relief tastings) I immediately booked onto her Drinking With Style Series wine tasting course. This was held in Edinburgh’s Malt Whisky Society on Queen St and provided an opportunity to use the members only bar as a guest on each Monday night of the wine tastings. Having the wine tasting on a Monday night was less than ideal and so it proved with a few sore heads on the Tuesday at work, especially after the final weeks champagne tasting.
The format of each tasting was to sit round a table, each containing 8 people. Each table had six wine glasses, a spittoon (that was rarely needed), plates of cheese (sourced from IJ Mellis) and biscuits. On the first week we were each given a branded folder containing course notes and each subsequent week new notes were handed out. These did not contain all the content Rose talked through though, the rest was provided by projected PowerPoint presentation. While Rose confidently talks through the wine regions, what affects the wine (taste, strength, acidity, etc.), what faults to look out for, tasting notes and a little wine history/terminology a waiter pours a generous amount (up to a quarter of a glass) of wine into each of the glasses. A tasting sheet to make your own notes is provided (like my edicts to ‘BUY’ or ‘NOT BUY’) or you can wait until the end of the tasting session and receive Roses own typed notes.
Week 1: Fine French Classics
This focused on wine aromas, including the AC Noble Aroma Wheel and examples of red and white wine aromas. It also looked at factors that affect a wines style i.e. climate and grape being the two most important factors. And factors that affect a wines quality such as viticulture and the actual making of the wine.
We were also taught how to read French wine labels, what terms we might encounter in a French vineyard and snapshot descriptions of the classic French wine regions.
Crucially there were 5 white wines, 6 red wines and one dessert wine to taste. Only the region of the wine is revealed at first and after tasting full details (grape type, winemaker and price) are revealed. Rose kept the interest up by asking us to taste two wines at once and discussing around the table which was the oldest or which was the more expensive. My two favourite wines here were the Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 1999 Domaine Defaix (¬£19.50 from Laithwaites) and the Sauvigny Les Beaune, Premier Cru Peuillets 2001 Pavelot (¬£15.86 from Herbies of Edinburgh). The cheapest priced wine we tasted was ¬£9.99 and the most expensive ¬£39.99.
Week 2: Best of Italy and Spain
This looked at food and wine matching techniques and, as somewhat of an amateur in this area, gave me a useful footing for further experimentation. My sense of smell and taste had begun to improve, although I was often at a loss to distinguish all the tastes and smells that the tasting sheets described.
My favourite wine here was the dessert choice: Torcolato 2003 (¬£14.59 1/2 bottle at Oddbins). However on the whites I really liked an Albarino 2004 Pazo do Barrantes (¬£11 from Peckhams).
Week 3: Best of New World
These were the wines I enjoyed the least, but were still interesting and we sampled produce from America, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. There were 5 whites, 6 reds and the obligatory dessert wine. The Australian Mount Langi Ghiran Pinot Gris (¬£9.99 from Villenueve Wines) did stand out though.
It also looked at wine faults and Rose brought along some samples to sniff. However I found the samples a little black and white: if I’d have smelt that strong an odour in a bottle of wine in a restaurant even I would have been assured the wine was off. In reality I guess such a definitive choice is seldom afforded. And that’s where it gets trickier.
Week 4: Champagne
My favourite week of the whole course, just infront of the French wines. We started off comparing champagne dosage levels (Ultra Brut, Brut and Demi-Sec) by tasting each of the three and being asked to guess which was which.
There were 9 champagnes in all and a cheap Australian sparkling which we were given anonymously and asked to detect which it was when up against Pol Roger Winston Churchill (¬£90 worth). Thankfully it wasn’t difficult. My favourite champagne of the night was the Veuve Clicquot White Label (¬£26.49 from Peckhams). Although the oaked Krug Grand Cuvee (¬£90) was a good treat.
This week also ended with a reasonable buffet (¬£14 extra) that was provided by the Malt Whisky society and included fillet steak skewers, cheese and biscuits, quiche and minute fish and chips. Rose provided more red and white wine and two great ports. So that rounded the course, and me, off just nicely!
The wine tasting course cost ¬£120 for all four sessions, but each lesson could be purchased individually at ¬£32. Given that 12 wines were available for tasting each week (10 at the last week), the cheese and biscuits, venue and knowledge gained I would describe it as offering excellent value. Rose is a confident, precise and energetic master to host such courses and it’s not hard to see why her Rose Murray Brown brand has been such a success. Little quirks such as each session ending with a little fun competition to win a bottle of wine or tickets to another wine tasting added good value. And I was particularly happy when spare wine was handed out for the tables to drink at their leisure after every-ones glasses had been filled.
It’s worth noting this course is at intermediate level (I have the certificate to prove it!) and while not a necessity I think booking onto Rose’s next basic to intermediate course (Enjoying Wine Series) if you have little wine experience/knowledge is recommended before you take this course.
Other Rose Murray Brown courses are available such as meals served with appropriate wine, wine tasting trips abroad, matching wine with chocolate and cocktail making. Based on this course I will definitely be back to sample some others and, if wanting to boost your wine knowledge, I heartily recommend you do the same.
The full list of available courses may be found on Rose Murray Brown’s official website.