If you fancy yourself as a savvy amateur wine-taster, then Oddbins’ The Palate contest might be the perfect place to show off your skills.
The High Street and online chain is launching its 2015 search for the ultimate amateur palate. The competition is now in its fourth year and last year 21,000 people took part.
The first rounds are taking place at the Taste of London food and drink festival until June 21, and then in all Oddbins shops over this coming weekend, June 20 & 21 and then the following week, June 27 & 28.
So you’d better start training with a sniff, a swirl and a slurp.
Wine critic and educator Sarah Ahmed, a mentor and judge for The Palate, says: “It is an incontrovertible fact that many, many people feel too intimidated to taste wine confidently and The Palate plays a vital role in demystifying and democratising the world of wine.
“It’s about showing people that anyone can do it – and it was truly moving to see people on that journey from self-doubt to confidence last year.”
As well as the title of The Palate 2015, entrants can win: a ‘wine holiday’ to South Africa; a long weekend in Italy; a day course at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School; wine prizes totalling £3,000; much free wine; and the chance to pick a wine for Oddbins to list nationwide.
After Round One, contestants are then whittled down over four rounds, culminating in wine Boot Camps and then an intense final, filmed at a glitzy London location.
THIS girlie, as I write, has a mild red wine hangover. I have tried revitalising shampoo but it hasn’t worked, so I’m going to write to the Shampoo Ombudsman.
The reason for my “mild” head? This week the International Wine Challenge announced its Merchant Awards and I was there “quietly” enjoying the occasion.
The headlines then (and it’s always nice to know these things when you’re shopping around for vino):
Marks & Spencer picked up the Supermarket of the Year gong. Highly commended was Morrisons.
Oddbins won High Street Chain of the Year (if there isn’t one near you, they have a website www.oddbins.com).
Wine Club of the Year was awarded to The Wine Society, of which this lady with the mild head is a firm fan. The cost of a lifetime share is £40 with no annual fee or obligation to buy; and you can bequeath membership to your kids. Great wines too. (www.the winesociety.com)
Great value sparkling wine was awarded to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano DOC which has graced this column on a couple of occasions.
In my glass … A workpal, who shall remain nameless, pointed me in the direction of some wines from Marks & Sparks. Anyway, Barrie (oops) said that he’d picked up a bottle of Indian wine and that it was very good indeed. The “very good indeed” wine turned out to be Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013 and I can tell you, dear reader, that Barrie is bang on the money.
And talking about money, it comes in at £6.99, the same price as its sister wines Jewel of Nasik Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013.
I’m always one for a challenge and a glass of something new. M&S has worked with Sula Vineyards high up in the hills of Maharashtra north-east of Mumbai to bring this range of wines to our shores. Sula’s grapes are harvested during the dry season, to avoid the monsoon.
The sauvignon blanc was a crisp, citrus and gooseberry burst, with some herbs and a touch of stone fruit. M&S recommend you try it with chicken tikka masala.
Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013, is salmon-pink deep and plump with fresh and dried strawberries. If you enjoy rosé then I can’t see any reason why you won’t like this; for me it was another rosé. It was OK. Again, M&S recommend either tandoori tiger prawns or monkfish tikka.
Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013, is medium-bodied with deep cherry and blackberries. These two grapes are known for their intense peppery sprinkles, and this wine is no exception. Lamb rogan josh, say the M&S foodies.
Am liking all the food in these pairings; but these are old world grapes in a New World environment. Just take a simple route … try them on their own.
Also in my glass … For a special occasion try Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux (£16.99, www.averys.com), made from 100% handpicked chardonnay grapes created by a boutique winery in the Languedoc Roussillon region. It’s a subtle chardonnay humming with apricot and marzipan, and with a citrus in-the-mouth linger, akin to lemon tart.
This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 19 2014