I love to drink it and truly wish I were a connoisseur. There is something super sexy about a man or women calling over the sommelier to discuss the hundreds of labels printed in the leather-bound Menu des Vins. Personally, I am sorely lacking in my oenophilic education. Why a white goes better with fish and a red accompanies the meat are concepts I take for granted because someone else has told me that’s how it goes.
Thus, I jumped at the chance to take the Back to Basics Wine Session at the very luxurious Alain Ducasse restaurant at the Dorchester. Vincent Pastorello, Head of Wines, & Christopher Bothwell, Head Sommelier, were on hand to ease us into the whole process and make us feel comfortable enough to ask the dumbest of wine-related questions.
The very first thing learned was Mr. Ducasse doesn’t like to leave his guests idling for long. They’ve come to dine, not sit around and wait, so a nosh was presented STAT. Ours were the cheese & black pepper gougères. They look deceivingly simple but, one bite, and you know why he is the master of his domain. Melt in your mouth deliciousness with that perfect combo of cheese and pepper…but I digress since we were here to drink, not eat.
Over the next two hours, we learned the most basic of tools: which bottle opener is best for a new wine and which for a classic wine, how to open those bottles, decanting techniques, the difference between an oxidized and a corked wine, which glasses to use with which wine, and more and more. Vincent’s goal of the day was to not only show us how to deal wines at home, but to gain the confidence to have a sensible conversation with a sommelier.
Let the tasting begin! Christopher joined us to open bottle after bootle! He spoke as we sipped and nibbled on the tasty treats sent from the kitchen to accompany each sip. At Alain Ducasse, wines are selected by how nice they play with the food on the plate. No one was spitting out these delicious wines and everything was rosy and confident we were. By the end of the two hours, I felt ready to take on the wine lists of the great restaurants of the world.
Following are a few hints that are impossible for me not to pass on!
- Always smell before you swirl!
- French Burgundy is the Chardonnay grape!
- Sticking your tongue right into the glass will tell you if the wine is sweet or dry!
- Don’t be intimidated by sommeliers – they are there to help you!
Anything else you want to know, take the class!
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Best Bits: Travel Cheat Sheet
- Back to Basics Wine Sessions at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Park Lane
London W1K 1QA
020 7629 8866
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester will be inviting guests to explore the basics of wine with a series of intimate wine classes hosted by acclaimed sommelier Vincent Pastorello, Head of Wines at The Dorchester and Christopher Bothwell, Head Sommelier at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. The two hour sessions will take place at the three Michelin star restaurant in a friendly, round-table environment. A maximum of eight guests at each session will be invited to taste a selection of wines from the restaurant’s extensive 1,000 bin wine list, whilst enjoying canapés prepared by the restaurant.
Classes will take place on 29th July, 9th September and 1st October and are £150 per person.
NB: I was the guest of Alain Ducasse and thank them for educating me in the Oenophilic Arts.