“Bergamot,” shouts some guy from the back of the room. “Don’t be ridiculous,” we think. Even though we don’t really know what bergamot smells like.
“Actually, you’re spot on,” says the owner of Seven Cellars wine and beer emporium at Seven Dials, where this tasting event is being held. “There’s definitely some Turkish delight in there.”
It’s a lightbulb moment for us, as we suddenly realise how the process of learning to evaluate wine works. As soon as we thought about Turkish delight, there it was. It was there all along. Tantalisingly beyond the reach of our evaluative and categorisational faculties, but there all the same.
The smell of bergamot has now been packaged up and thrust into a synaptic pigeon hole in the mind, ready to bloom forth the next time we get a whiff of Turkish delight from a wine. Our wine vocabulary just went up by one — so that’s an increase of about 20 per cent. Well played that chap at the back.
The thing is, pretty much everybody likes wine, but nobody bar a few “experts” admits to knowing how to describe it. “It’s lovely, but it just tastes like… wine,” they’ll say.
That’s why events like this are such a good idea. Tonight’s has an Italian theme. “Do you want a glass of Prosecco?” asks manager Matt as we enter. We didn’t realise it was going to be that sort of party but yes, of course. Immediately. In the absence of a coat stand, we hang our jackets on a light fitting and enter the fray.
The agenda consists of three reds, three whites and a beautiful amber-coloured dessert wine that tastes like Christmas cake. Decent value at £25, especially with a wad of canapes chucked in.
Tasting different grapes back to back like this is the only way to appreciate the vast contrast between styles. The three whites couldn’t be more different, from the peachy stone fruits and steely minerality of the Sicilian Etna Bianco to the spicy Gewürtztraminer with its notes of lychee and, yes, bergamot.
Importer Matt from Armit Wines stands at the front, giving us a description of each one. It’s a job that gets increasingly difficult as everyone becomes chattier and more opinionated. The other Matt helps out and we get chatting to local couple Helen and Andrew.
The shop does well out of it too, with a queue of half-sozzled punters snaking through it near chucking out time. Helen and Andrew leave clutching a 2015 Falanghina and (our favourite), the Rosso dei Notri (aka the “Super Tuscan”). We assume they’re off to continue the Italian theme at home. La dolce vita indeed. Especially after seven glasses of wine.
Seven Cellars can be found at 104 Dyke Rd, Brighton BN1 3JD
Words by Gary Rose