Wine appreciation for novices

Wine appreciation for novice wine lovers

It was whilst I was sipping a 2006 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, appreciating the aromatic aroma of fresh lime and warm melon, and letting my lips curve around the fine Regal glass rim, when it occurred to me that wine consumption has come a long way in recent times. It seems only yesterday I was pouring a “medium dry” from an $8 cardboard cask that tasted like a cross between apple juice and white vinegar. Now I spend $30 per bottle and drink out of $100 glasses. Goodbye prosaic, hello sophistication.

I’m not sure when it happened but somewhere along the line, New Zealand’s taste buds went from meat and three vege to Spatchcocked Poussin with Puy Lentil Vinaigrette Parsnip Puree and Goat Cheese Froth; and with it went our appreciation of wine. No longer were we content to glug away at insipid sauvignons. Our exposure to the world beyond meant an exponential appreciation of the complex aromas and flavours that make up the world of wine.

We all know that New Zealand wine is up there with the best of them, and that our sauvignon blancs are pretty much the best in the world. But beyond that, how much do we actually know about what we’re drinking? How much did I know?

Sadly, not much.

And so it was with great joy that my partner and I enrolled in Bob Campbell’s Wine Appreciation Course: a 5-week discovery in tasting, making, cellaring, buying and appreciating wine.

Bob is one of those jolly likeable characters whose love for wine oozes from every pore. His portly physique betrays his penchant for fine wine matched with equally fine food and with an ever-so-slightly red bulbous nose, it’s not hard to imagine that he has stuck his schnozz into literally millions of glasses of vin. Bob is indisputably New Zealand's leading wine educator, international wine judge and writer. He’s also one of only 257 Masters of Wine in the world and has been running wine courses since 1986 and has lectured to nearly 20,000 people in that time.

So it is with respect and admiration that I enrolled on the course with my partner; determined to learn enough about wine so that when next faced with a wine list at a five-star restaurant, I could order by quality and not by price and whether it’s-a-name-I-recognise-from-last-time.

The five week course covered the components of taste, the aroma wheel, grape varieties, winemaking, wine and food matching, faults, cellaring, serving and all importantly, tasting.

Bob was clearly passionate about wine and often went off in tangents as he relayed some vignette from a vineyard in France 23 years ago but that all added to the course’s charm. I learnt an enormous amount but never felt overwhelmed, only inspired. Of course, the endless tastings of sauvignons, chardonnays, rieslings, etc helped lubricate the course on its merry way.

Some of the most valuable points that I learnt was how to tell corked wine (if the wine wasn’t actually fizzing out of the bottle and smell like battery acid, I was never actually sure if it was off); how to match wine to food; how to fully appreciate the taste and aroma and how to store the half-bottle left over when not quite in the mood to quaff the entire thing.

The $245 to do this course was well worth it and highly recommended. Bob runs courses throughout New Zealand so sign up, taste and enjoy!

Bob Campbell website