Wine Tasting at Berry Bros. & Rudd

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to prefer fine wines to chain smoking or souping up a hatchback, is not for me to say, but at least with wine there is always the potential for both aesthetics and inebriation, and the more you drink, the more you know, the more you enjoy (to a point, obviously). Time to get tasting.

Tasting is all about learning, and having visited London’s venerable Berry Bros & Rudd, Westminster, and indeed Britain’s oldest wine merchant, I am confident that the solution to the tedium of geography in schools is wine; I now know as much about the Loire, the illustrious river whose banks yield such vinous nonpareils as Sancerre and Pouilly Fuissé, as I do about the Thames – the associated interest really does work wonders.

Today, with the world of wine opening up for drinkers as well as producers, and technology improving consistency and quality, it’s getting much easier to get good wine, and with lots of the old fustiness evaporating, wine is more accessible than ever. However, on the basis that Berry Bros. have been selling the stuff for over 300 years, the business is still family-run, and the floorboards of their St. James’s showroom creak with prestige, I thought being trapped in one of their cellars with a crowd of intoxicated octogenarian brigadiers might be a little daunting.

And though the crowd wasn’t exactly a young one, I enjoyed the tasting a lot. Conducted with gentle style by David Berry Green, their Loire buyer, the evening was informative but informal, just about sitting down and appreciating the wine, finding out why it tastes as it does. And tasting a number of wines from a different region you begin to see how the dreaded nomenclature, the terroir, lees, chaptalisation stuff, can make such a difference.

The cellars, adorned with countless old bottles, evocative of long-lost memories, provide a fitting setting in which to soak up the wine, and with fizz, regional cheeses, nibbles and canapés, the experience is luxurious and not a little refined.

At £65 for the evening, it’s comparable to a trip to the theatre or concert (or a couple of tweeters for the back shelf), but as the wine woozes and the colours begin to soften, it is easy to feel an affinity with the region, the producers and, most of all, the wine. Again, it’s just about how you choose to spend your money. I’ve already been back for a couple of bottles. Sod the Golf.

Berry Bros. & Rudd
3 St James’s Street

Tel: 0870 900 4300

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