Little Miss Sunshine and I were invited by friends Fiona and Brian to a wine tasting evening, hosted by the Old Comber Wineyard. (Wine tasting; I must be getting older!) The last time I did this was an evening course, over 15 years ago. That one covered the basics.Paul was the seller/sommelier from Febvre wines, and Dave was the retail seller from Old Comber Wineyard. The event was held in the TT Bistro, which was new to us in itself. CHAMPAGNE JEAN PERNET GRAND CRU BLANC DE BLANCS NV (France) The session started with a full-poured glass of Champagne. What was special about this was that it was 100% chardonnay grape, which makes it scarcer and more expensive. Apparently, such bottles usually start at £30, but this was good value at £20. For me, it certainly had a smooth taste for champagne, but (a) I’m no fan of chardonnay and (b) I prefer some Italian varieties of sparkling wine. LES FUMEES BLANCHES SAUVIGNON BLANC ANDRE LURTON, LANGUEDOC (France) The point about this wine was that it is as good as sauvignon blanc wines that come from New Zealand, and good value at £6.99. Both true, but I didn’t find anything extraordinary to warrant a purchase. Little Miss liked it. HOUT BAY CHENIN BLANC (South Africa) I was struck by the lack of nose; in the glass I couldn’t discern any smell. In the mouth, there was a lot of acidity and a lot of sugar. I thought this would be a sure thing for a morning-after hangover. Neither of us liked it. MOUNT VERNON SAUVIGNON BLANC MARLBOROUGH (New Zealand) In the glass you could smell passion fruit, easily. This is an aromatic wine, with zing to the taste. Slightly dry, but I thought this would be ideal for summer drinking and/or with a seafood dish/pasta meal. £10 a bottle. DE BORTOLI VAT 7 CHARDONNAY (Australia) I agreed with Brian that this had a strong buttery taste. Paul described an apple taste, and yes, golden delicious apples came to mind. To its credit, there wasn’t a sugar aftertaste that typifies chardonnays (for me), but again, neither Little Miss nor I liked it. CHATEAU DE PENNAUTIER CABARDES, ROUSSILLON (France) Moving on to red wines, this one was a winner for us. Pleasant on the nose, black cherry to the taste, with a slightly dry aftertaste. This would be perfect with steak (without sauce) or any other grilled meat. £7 a bottle. RIOJA VEGA RESERVA 2004 (Spain) Paul gave us a good explanation of the region of Rioja and the different techniques of oak barrel ageing (American oak more porous: faster ageing, shorter shelf life; French oak less porous: slower ageing, longer shelf life). This wine was of tempranillo grape. Paul described this as a good example of a wine that isn’t over imbued with oak, yet reaching ideal maturity. I understood this, but the wine still tasted “young” to me, as if it should be left in the bottle for another couple of years. Clearly ignorant, I just smiled and awaited the next wine to be tasted. VALDUNES CRIANZA RIBERO DEL DUERO (Spain) Like the home you know you’re going to buy, because it just feels right, Little Miss and I loved this wine. But we don’t know how to describe it. We prefer our red wines, and this was a good blend of time in barrel and time in bottle. Unlike the Rioja Vega Reserva above, this tasted like it was the perfect time for drinking. Paul suggested this would go well with lamb dishes. £10 a bottle. CLOUS MENUTS GRAND CRUX SAINT EMILION (France) This was presented as an example of high quality (Grad Crux), merlot grape wine. Indeed, it was good and easy to drink, making me think of summer. But it was too expensive for what it was, at £15 a bottle. I know I can get just as satisfying Saint Emilion wines at half the price. DE MARTINO LEGADO SYRAH RESERVA LIMITED EDITION, CHOAPA VALLEY (Chile) I think this was presented as an example of how the Chileans can produce wine just as fine as that of the Rioja region. Paul explained the significance of the mountainside and micro climates. Yes, this Syrah was similar to the Rioja Vega Reserva above, but better. I liked it alright, but not as much as others tasted tonight. VERDICT Little Miss and I agreed to get a bottle of Mount Vernon Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, Chateau De Pennautier Cabardes, and two bottles of Valdunes Crianza Ribero Del Duero. Damage: about £35. Next wine tasting is about 1st December. Actually looking forward to it.