Fun and games with wine

A new Devon-based wine school is on a mis­sion to make wine ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one. Or­lando Mur­rin dis­cov­ers some fun ideas for the sea­son ahead

Devon Life - - South West Wine School -

Oc­to­ber saw the launch of an ex­cit­ing new ar­rival on the lo­cal food and drink scene – South West Wine School. Ac­cord­ing to co-founder Jonathan Reynolds: “There’s so much in­ter­est in wine now – and the South West is very much where things are hap­pen­ing. As well as hav­ing great wine pro­duc­ers on our doorstep – who are start­ing to make their mark in­ter­na­tion­ally – we have a long as­so­ci­a­tion with fine wine, and hos­pi­tal­ity in gen­eral. If you’re in­ter­ested in im­mers­ing your­self in this end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject, you couldn’t be in a bet­ter place at a bet­ter time.”

The School has the im­pri­matur of our re­gion’s top wine names, in­clud­ing Liam Steeven­son MW, Re­becca Mitchell DIPWSET and Tele­graph drinks writer Susy Atkins, and cour­ses are avail­able for wine en­thu­si­asts of all lev­els. Ac­cord­ing to Susy: “Wine cour­ses used to have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing se­ri­ous and crusty, but we’re do­ing things dif­fer­ently. We want to bring out the fun side of wine, and help peo­ple ex­pand their knowl­edge in a re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment.”

Devon-based Liam, who be­came the youngest Mas­ter of Wine in the world at the age of 29 and now trav­els the world to se­lect and pro­duce fine wines, be­lieves Christ­mas is a great op­por­tu­nity for wine lovers to start ex­plor­ing their ad­ven­tur­ous side. “Christ­mas food presents us with such a broad – al­most chaotic – range of flavours and tex­tures that it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to pair wines in the tra­di­tional way. Far bet­ter in my opin­ion is to push the boat out and of­fer a se­lec­tion of char­ac­ter­ful wines – in­clud­ing wines that are new to you, or a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. Make the wines you serve a con­ver­sa­tion piece. My Christ­mas ta­ble will cer­tainly in­clude a wine I pro­duce my­self in SW France, called Im­mortelle, which goes beau­ti­fully with the dense flavours of turkey and all the trim­mings.”

Re­becca finds this is a time of year when many peo­ple are feel­ing play­ful, so she has de­vel­oped a cou­ple of amus­ing wine games. For ‘Guess the Grape’, cover up a cou­ple of bot­tles (ei­ther with foil or proper blind tast­ing cov­ers from wbc. and get ev­ery­one to guess the grape va­ri­ety and coun­try of ori­gin; you can do this as mul­ti­ple choice. To up the ante, she un­leashes her for­mi­da­ble ‘Sniff Chal­lenge’, in which friends are in­vited to iden­tify 54 aro­mas (in groups of flora, fruit, veg­e­tal, spice and other) from the Le Nez du Vin mas­terkit. (The mas­terkit costs 300 euros and makes a fab­u­lous gift for a wine lover; more af­ford­able sets are avail­able.) “I find per­son­ally that very of­ten women score bet­ter than men,” com­ments Re­becca.

Jonathan Sut­ton, of Michael Sut­ton’s Cel­lar near Dart­mouth, goes one step fur­ther and plays ‘Call My Wine Bluff’ – great for a large group. Choose three wines and con­ceal the bot­tles. Write a short tast­ing note ac­cu­rately de­scrib­ing Wine no. 1 (for in­stance, “This is a French Mal­bec, full bod­ied with in­tense liquorice flavours”), and two in­cor­rect (such as, “This is a light bod­ied wine with goose­berry un­der­tones from Ger­many”). Do the same for Wines 2 and 3.

Now pour out tasters of Wine 1 and get three guests to talk/ bluff about it, us­ing the notes you pre­pared. Ev­ery­one else con­fers to try and guess which pan­el­list is telling the truth. Do the same for Wines 2 and 3. Af­ter which, a con­grat­u­la­tory drink all round.

If there’s a se­ri­ously com­pet­i­tive wine lover in your life, you might wish to give them a wine game as a Christ­mas gift. While some on of­fer are no more than thinly dis­guised drink­ing games, Wineiq (avail­able on­line, £18.99) in­cludes ev­ery­thing you need for a wine quiz night, and Cork­ers Wine Game (£24.99) is a clas­sic board game in which you earn grapes and ac­quire vine­yards. If all else fails and you feel like col­laps­ing in front of a film, check out Game Night. It’s a hel­ter-skel­ter com­edy with more twists than a scenic rail­way, and even if it’s not ac­tu­ally about wine, the pro­tag­o­nists usu­ally have a glass in their hands. Sim­ply hi­lar­i­ous washed down with a glass of some­thing bub­bly. south­west­ @swwineschool

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