Toasting Lockdown: Wine Tasting Like a Pro at Home

With eating out not an option right now and more time on our hands to relax in the Spring sunshine in our gardens, it is any wonder many of us have taken the opportunity to indulge in the treat of a glass or two of wine at the end of an uneventful day! So, while we have the opportunity, why not brush up a bit on your wine knowledge to help identify what you like about particular wines and understand why certain wines bring out the best with specific foods.

So, first off let’s find out how to taste wine like a pro in a few easy steps. Wine is a complex marriage of colour, taste and aroma, but it needn’t be daunting. Follow our easy tips on how to evaluate each of the characteristics in turn to really appreciate your wine.

Step 1: GETTING STARTED – Choose a glass with a relatively large bulb shape and fill a quarter of the glass with wine. Hold the glass by the stem as holding the glass by the bulb will heat up the wine and influence the flavour. Wine needs to “breathe” after being opened to get the best flavour, so take your time examining the wine first.

Step 2: COLOUR’S NOT JUST RED & WHITE – Tilt the glass slightly to see the way the colour changes from the centre to the edges. It will help if you hold the glass in front of a white background, such as a napkin, tablecloth, or a sheet of paper, to make out the wine’s true colour. Look for the depth and intensity of the colour and the clarity of the wine. Note that white wines get darker with age and red wines tend to lose their colour, turning browner over time.

Step 3: WHAT’S IN THE NOSE? – Swirl the wine around in your glass. This increases the surface area of the wine by spreading it over the inside of the glass and allows some oxygen into the wine, so helping the aromas to be released from the wine. You will notice at this stage that more viscous wines take longer to slide down the glass and are said to have “legs”! Now take a good sniff of the wine and keep gently swirling your wine if you can’t smell much straight away. Can you get toasted or oaky notes? What about fruit, is it soft red berries or bright zesty citrus fruit?

Step 4: IT’S ALL IN THE TASTE – Take a sip of wine and let it linger and roll around in your mouth so it hits all your different taste buds. Think about what the initial stand out flavours are. After your initial taste, purse your lips as if you were going to whistle, and draw some air into your mouth across the wine and exhale through your nose. This releases more aromas from the wine and allows them to also reach your nose via the passageway at the back of your throat. Next, take another sip of the wine, slurping slightly to add air to the wine as you sip. See how this affects the flavour of the wine compared with your first sip.

So, now you can sample wine like an expert, let’s see what to look out for with some of our more popular grape varieties, using a selection of our award winning local Sussex wines to taste:

SPARKLING WINE

The jewel in England’s winemaking crown, English Sparkling Wine, is made using the same varieties and process as Champagne.

CLASSIC CUVEE (Bolney Wine Estate) 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier & 15% Chardonnay:

Aroma & Tasting Notes: Sweet apples, brioche and stone fruits (peaches/apricots)

Perfect Food Match: Oily fish, such as smoked mackerel, fish/shellfish pate and salmon en croute

FITZROVIA ROSÉ (Ridgeview Wine Estate) Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier

Aroma & Tasting Notes: Raspberry, citrus fruit & honey

Perfect Food Match: Lobster or summer pudding

HINDLEAP CLASSIC CUVEE (Bluebell Vineyard Estate) 61% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir & 15% Pinot Meunier:

Aroma & Tasting Notes: Elderflower, orange blossom, spice, toast, mandarin, pear and pink grapefruit

Perfect Food Match: Smoked fish, chicken and game dishes

RED

Light & fruity number that rivalsFrench Burgundy!

PINOT NOIR (Bolney Wine Estate):

Aroma &Tasting Notes: Red cherry, strawberry, leather, spice, chocolate and plums

Perfect Food Match: pork, duck, game birds, grilled asparagus

WHITE

PINOT GRIS (Bolney Wine Estate):

Pinot Grigio by another name!

Aroma & Tasting Notes: Pear, citrus lemon/lime fruits, honeysuckle and grass

Perfect Food Match: Shellfish, sushi, scallops, pate and delicate Asian dishes

BACCHUS (Kingscote Wine Estate & Ashdown Wines from Bluebell Vineyard Estate):

The English answer to Sauvignon Blanc!

Aroma & Tasting Notes: Grass, nettles, elderflower, gooseberry, citrus fruits, passion fruit and white grapefruit

Perfect Food Match: White meats, ham, salmon and salads

Bringing Nature and the Outdoors In

With many of us still stuck at home for a while over the coming weeks, we need to be more creative with how we can bring the uplifting effects of the natural world outside in, to help keep our spirits up and aid our general wellbeing. Here are some tips from Wakehurst to bring the great outdoors into your home:

1. The Joy of House Plants
Being around plants is good as they lift our mood and improve the quality of the environment and air around us. Research has also indicated that even by touching and smelling plants it has a de-stressing affect. So, if you haven’t got one already, perhaps get one on your next trip out to the supermarket for essentials. It doesn’t have to be big or impressive to watch it grow and thrive on a window ledge at home.

2. A Room with a View
Why not arrange a comfy spot close to a window with as much natural light as possible and a good view of your surroundings. If you can, choose a window that has a scenic view as watching birds, trees, grass and sky can all help keep you calm and relaxed.

3. Update your Screen Savers
Research has found that just looking at an image of a green space, compared with an urban one, can reduce stress. If you don’t have a great view outside, why not set your phone screen or desktop screensaver to a wonderful photo of nature to inspire you. Check out the Social Media pages for Wakehurst, High Beeches and Borde Hill Garden for some inspiration.

4. Gardens and Fresh Air
If you have an outdoor space or garden of your own, however small, why not try a great de-stressing technique that doesn’t take long and gets you to connect with your natural surroundings: To start, take a deep breath and focus on: 5 things you can see, 4 items you can touch, 3 sounds, 2 smells and 1 thing you can taste.

If you can, a bit of light work in the garden, like repotting and maintaining your plants, can be a great distraction and do you the world of good. Even just keeping your body moving with a walk around
the garden can be enough for light exercise and change your mood.

If you live in a crowded built-up area, it might be difficult for you to get outdoors safely but just try to open the windows to get some fresh air into your home and it can make you feel better.

Keep Calm & Carry On in the Garden

Although we’re working in unique and unprecedented times, there is still plenty to keep Andy Stevens, Head Gardener at Borde Hill Garden and his garden team busy. “We’re having to adjust to the new working conditions, ensuring we work in different parts of the garden, and have breaks at different times during the day, but being out in nature is helping to keep spirits high.

April brings a busy time in the garden. The start of British Summer Time heralds a new season where flashes of colour begin to appear across our numerous garden ‘rooms’, and the bright mornings filled with birdsong are hard to beat. Across the garden we’re continuing to mulch borders to lock in moisture and protect against weeds.

In the Garden of Allah we’ve finished cutting back the cornus and salix, to ensure they achieve their full size later in the season, whilst in the Blue and Autumn Borders, the team have been coppicing the cotinus and sambucus for foliage. It’s time to prune your hydrangeas and reliable summer-flowering penstemons.

It’s important to prune spring flowering shrubs such as chaenomeles after they finish flowering, as well as ensuring you protect new shoots of plants such as delphiniums and hostas to avoid the slugs and snails getting them. In the Rose Garden, new shoots are beginning to show, and we’re feeding the roses to ensure a strong display of colour later in the season.

Now is the time to fertilise your lawn, and at Borde Hill Garden that means tending to both the South Lawn and also that in the Azalea Ring. As the weather has been good, we have started to mow the lawns, and will sow grass seed from the middle of the month to encourage a good covering throughout the year.

In the glasshouses we’re checking that the heating is effective as frosts are still likely, but also ensuring they are well ventilated as the days begin to warm up. It’s important to watch out for aphid infestations and we often damp down the glasshouses during warm spells to lessen the chance of red spider mite. The team are propagating perennials from basal cuttings including delphiniums, and these will be used to bulk out our herbaceous borders.

Any annuals sown recently should be pricked out, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for damping off. Also note that half-hardy annuals can be sown now, and for those with more of an indoor focus, it’s worth remembering to water and feed houseplants, cacti and succulents.”