Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve attended two wine and one whisky tasting. While I am not too knowledgeable about either, I do enjoy a good glass or dram. And organized tastings with experts are a great way to learn and get exposure to things we don’t usually consume. With this post, I want to share some of my reflections on the subject of tastings.
The wine tastings were organized by Marc and David from Decant. At Decant, they are doing with wine something very similar to what we are doing at Ya-Ya with tea: making a handpicked range of top-end products available in New Zealand. The tastings I attended were quite specific (each one was limited to wines from a single producer) and looked at the higher end market. Marc presented beautiful wines from the top producers of white wines from the Mosel (9 bio-dynamic wines from Heymann-Löwenstein, priced $50-100 per bottle) and Austria (8 wines from Hirtzberger, priced $80-140). Especially since these wines are (considerably) outside of my usual price range, I value the chance to taste them very highly. It helps to develop your palate and puts things into perspective.
The whisky tasting was led by Michael from Whisky Galore. It attracted a fairly large crowd of ~30 people and was a very informative affair. Decant’s (higher end) wine tastings are attended by a pretty knowledgeable group of people and focus more on taste than theory. The whisky tasting I attended was aimed at a broader audience and Michael did a brilliant job explaining whisky’s history and its production through a mixture of facts and personal anecdotes. The 4 whiskys we tasted were all very distinctive and covered a broad range of whisky flavours - from peaty to fruity (banana of all flavours!). With bottle prices ranging from about $80-150, they fall somewhere into the (upper) middle class. Again, this tasting was an excellent and affordable opportunity to expand my palate.
Thoughts and lessons learned
As mentioned multiple times throughout this post already, I regard tastings like these as an incredibly easy and affordable way to learn. While the wine and whisky tastings I attended were done in a completely different format, both were conducted by very enthusiastic individuals who like to share their passion. In a specialized industry (fine wine as opposed to mass-produced supermarket products and single-malt Scotch as opposed to Johnny Walker), passion and expertise on the side of your supplier are in my opinion some of the key elements of trust.
The personal lessons I learned were valuable and pleasing. While I very much enjoyed the high-end wines at the tasting, I realized (with some relief) that the pleasure I got from the wines is not directly related to their price. I appreciate the concentration of some of the wines, but that’s sometimes too much for me. I realized that I get as much joy from a wonderful bottle of Lebecca Riesling from Pyramid Valley Wines (which retails around $30) as I do from a bottle of Austrian riesling four times its price. But that’s of course purely personal and directly related to my palate (and quite possibly lack of years of ‘education’). I also discovered that the mood I require to enjoy a fine dram is very specific. This is probably related more to the high alcohol content than to a one-dimensionality of flavour, since Michael did a wonderful job presenting very different flavour profiles.
These thoughts bring me back to tea. These tastings helped me to remember just how much I enjoy tea. How broad its range of flavour is and how many moods can be covered with tea. As with wine or whisky, the amount of joy a tea gives an individual is not directly related to its price. But in the end, even the most expensive tea is a cheap luxury when compared to these other two drinks. Even our most expensive tea will cost you less than about $1 per cup - compare that with a glass of wine for $15!
I came to another realization. We haven’t organized any tea tastings for quite some time. Maybe it’s time to do that again. Although it’s going to be a bit more challenging (with the teahouse as the location no longer available), I would like to share some of our teas with you and give you the opportunity to taste something, you wouldn’t normally try (just like Marc, David and Michael have done for me). If you’re interested, either leave a comment or send us an email.
And a big thanks again for Marc, David and Michael to give people like me the opportunity to taste these wonderful drinks!201e