Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Laithwaite's Wine Tasting Evening - St David's Hotel, Cardiff Review

I don't have the first clue about wine. Normally all I can muster up as a judgement is "That is drinkable" or "That tastes like cat's pee" or "That makes my mouth drier than 20 fags smoked simultaneously". If given the choice of an alcoholic drink it will, on 99% of occassions be a beer (the other 1% is reserved for Jagerbombs). So, to be honest my emotions were fairly mixed at the prospect of attending a wine tasting evening at St David's hotel with a couple of mates who are members of Laithwaite's wine club. Would I develop an appreciation for wine throughout the course of the evening or would I be left gasping for a pint of Carling?

Wine, Cheese, Crackers
Laithwaite's hold wine tasting events every couple of weeks it seems at different venues around the UK and as far as I am aware they are all of a similar format. You have a couple of hours (to stop people getting too drunk?) to sample 35 or so different wines from around the world. The room is set out with 11 tables, by geographic region (e.g. New Zealand, Old World, Australia), each with approximately 4 wines to try. As you wander from table to table there is a knowledgeable member of the Laithwaite's team stationed on each in order to answer questions (and prevent you from drinking the whole bottle). I thought the lack of formal  provision of information about each of the wines (e.g. an organised talk, information booklet) would mean I wouldn't learn very much. In hindsight however I can definitely say that I agree with the saying the best way to learn is through doing.

Checklist, Wine, Cheese on a stick

35 1/4-1/5 glasses of wine later, feeling a little worse for wear, I felt like I had discovered more about wine than I had up til that point in my life. It was fascinating to discover the variety of tastes of the different whites and reds through direct and immediate comparison. Also I managed to lay to rest my prejudice that all white wine tastes like cat's pee as I've found most bottles from tesco costing less than a fiver do. In fact, the two bottles of wine which I purchased at the end of the evening were both white: A Hans Lang Riesling 2009 which was fruity and a touch dry and Heritage de Chateau Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which tasted like a bottle of grapefruit juice (dangerous). I'd imagine, judging by some of the people round the room, that I was one of the lowest rollers and that especially after the considerable number of glasses of wine drunk by most (I didn't see much spitoon action), the average spend was probably far in excess of mine.

Underused spitoon in foreground, Infomation board in background. I can confirm that Viognier does taste of flowers.
Is it a good thing that a wine tastes of pencil shavings?

So all in all, an awesome evening. Tickets cost us £22 for 2 people (I think that might have been a half price special offer) and included tastings of all the wine on offer as well as a seemingly limitless supply of Carr's water biscuits and yellow processed cheddar. I'd challenge you to have a night out on booze for less anywhere in the UK, especially at a 5 star hotel.

A drunken reveller takes another sip of wine

The details: Laithwaites Wine Tasting Evenings Web:, Location: Venues across the UK

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