[Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary wine tasting for me and my friends for the purposes of this blog]
I love a wine tasting, but I’ll admit to being as nervous as the next person about it. When someone’s talking tobacco and tannins, I’m usually just thinking, ‘that’s nice, where’s the next glass’. I’ve been lucky enough to do all sorts of tastings in the name of work, and yet still I know very little about wine – except that I like it.
But despite my lack of knowledge and finesse, I’m keen to know more and become one of those people who can choose a wine without basing my decision purely on tasting notes on the label or on a helpful bit of blurb in the place I’m buying it from. So when I heard that we have our very own wine expert literally around the corner from me in Rugby, I very much had to get involved.
Tom goes by the name ‘Tomelier Wine Pilots‘ and offers bespoke wine tastings not just in Rugby and Warwickshire, but across the Midlands and even further afield. You can book them for your home, workplace or even a holiday let, and there’s also the option of virtual tastings if you want that 2020 feel.
There’s a choice of themes for your tasting, from an introduction to wine, to region-specific tastings, food and wine matching, alternative tastings involving natural wines, or wine-themed fun and games. It’s all geared to you and your pals, with plenty of options to explore your interests or just have some fun.
Sounds fairly standard for wine tastings, right? Except the way Tomelier differs from other wine tastings is in his approach. Often, you’ll find that wine tastings masquerade as being about education when actually they’re really about sales.
So once you’ve swilled, spat, swallowed and slurred your way through an evening trying to work out where that hint of vanilla is, or what oak tastes like, you’ll be presented with the opportunity to buy a rather pricey bottle of wine. Okay, not always pricey – but often more than your favourite tipple from Aldi.
Not so here – Tom doesn’t sell wine. Neither does he tempt you into buying a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape from a random wine merchant across the country that you’ll have to spend as much on shipping as you will on the wine. Each and every wine we tried was available from a supermarket or from local wine merchants so if you find something you like, you can go and get it easily.
The other stand-out bonus of having Tom do your wine tasting is his manner, which mixes professionalism with a casual approach that puts you at ease if you’re feeling the nerves of wondering whether you can tell your Merlot from your Malbec.
He was completely un-phased by the chaos of my home on a Monday evening after work, complete with two dogs, the arrival of my two food blog pals, and my attempts at cooking some food for us to enjoy before, during and after the tasting.
For our tasting we had chosen New World vs Old World – a fun ‘taste-off’ between European wines and their New World equivalents. We tackled three pairs of wines, starting by blind tasting and trying to identify the grape, then moving on to whether they were new or old.
Along the way, we learned more about how to taste, what to look for, and plenty about the history of certain wines, how they’re made, and why new and old world can differ so much. As well as that more serious stuff, there was plenty of fun, from tips on the best wine to pair with fish and chips to why wine can be such an unwelcoming world to be in (my observation, not Tom’s).
The tasting lasted about an hour-and-a-half, with Tom gamefully putting up with us as the wine kicked in, clearing up around us as we prepared to continue the night after his departure.
I’m aware I have a tendency to always be miss positive pants, especially when someone’s local, but I know other people who have experienced tastings with Tomelier and found them equally as enjoyable and accessible, with none of the jargon, snobbery and exclusivity that is still so often found in the world of wine.
He is about making wine tasting informative but fun, and professional but laid back. The joy of being able to taste wines that you can buy easily, locally and affordably rather than ones you may never get to buy is a real bonus, as is the affordability and flexibility of his sessions, which start at £25 per head and can range in style, length and format.
Tomelier genuinely offers something for everyone, whether you’re already well into your wine, or just want to learn a bit more and have some fun with friends along the way. Tom isn’t just knowledgeable, but friendly and fun too, and we all need a bit of that
You can find out more about tastings with Tomelier Wine Pilots on their website here.
[Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary wine tasting with friends for the purposes of this blog. As ever, my views are honest and based on my own experience]