Kenneth Dickie’s Wine Tasting Extravaganza Tuesday 14th August

At our Tuesday evening meeting in the Horizon Hotel, 51 Ayr Rotarians and guests were treated to a Kenneth Dickie “back to basics” educational on wine. It all started about 20 years ago said Kenneth, with a desire to understand more about wines. First he attended the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Certificate Course and then the Higher Certificate – both offered at Ayr College – then the three year Diploma Course in Glasgow. The Certificate Courses were fun but the Diploma Course was a much more serious affair.

Now-a-days, Kenneth continued, thousands of young people study the subject in Universities such as Davies in California or Stellenbosch in South Africa and not forgetting the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Courses which are offered world wide to more than 5,000 students each year.

Years of experience and effort go into producing a bottle of wine, yet said Kenneth that he bet for most of his audience, they’d buy a bottle just because it’s pleasant to drink with food or perhaps you like the way the alcohol loosens your tongue or frees inhibitions. And, if bought it in a restaurant the cost is at least four times the price than in a shop. Gently scolding the assembled company he said people just swill it down without really trying to analyse it’s smell and taste. “It really is a sacrilege, he exclaimed – a violation of what is sacred – the way all that devoted man-power and effort is just ignored at it’s final destination.”

The procedure for the evening was to taste six wines:

Then Kenneth talked about the wine glasses.

  1. They should be completely clean, dry and polished. When washing them, rinse them in hot water only. They must not contain any hint of detergent. This can leave a distinct odour.

  2. Glasses should be broader at the base and should slope in, in a tulip shape, so that the wine can be swirled around to release the nose.

  3. Glasses should have a stem so that they can be held without the temperature of the wine being affected

  4. Cut crystal glasses may look good on the table but add nothing to the appreciation of the wine.

  5. Temperature: White wines should be served cool but not cold. Red wines should be served at room temperature.

  6. Breathing: Opening the bottle in advance does little for the wine, the area that is allowed to breathe, by doing this, is insignificant.

  7. Decanting: This is only necessary for wines which may have a sediment which can taste bitter. On young wines there is little chance of sediment.

Kenneth continued by saying that essentially there are four categories to be considered:

  1. Appearance: Clarity, intensity, colour, legs, bubbles and crystals. The important one of these is colour. Hold the glass at an angle of 45 degrees. New red wines get paler in colour as they get older. The first sign of age is on the rim. New red wines will, in general, be purple and as they age they change to ruby and then on to tawny. White wines can be very pale or can have a golden tint because they have been put into new oak.

  2. The Nose: This is the smell of the wine. Swirl the wine in the glass, get your nose right into the glass and sniff gently and deeply. (Unless you have had some practice, swirl the glass by sitting it on it’s base on the table and moving it in a circular motion. Anything more adventurous can get you into trouble). Look for clarity in smell: corked wines (musty), Sulphur (a preservative in cheap wines), Oxidation (smells burnt and can take on a brownish colour), Intensity (weak or pronounced), Fruit character (fruity, floral, vegetal or spicy.

  3. The Palate: The taste. Sweetness (from dry to luscious), Acidity (strong acidity makes the mouth water, weak acidity and the wine is flabby), Body (from light to full bodied) Fruit intensity and character), Alcohol High alcohol can be detected by a warming sensation at the back of the mouth), Length (the time the flavour lingers on the palate after swallowing)

  4. Conclusions: All of this should enable people to detect: The grape variety, the country of origin, the area of origin within that country, the vintage, the maturity, the alcohol content, the quality and even the retail price. Best not to take a stab at the last conclusion if sitting at someone’s dinner table.

Kenneth’s audience thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening which passed very quickly, an indication of an engrossing and entertaining event. Alistair Tyre gave a very well deserved vote of thanks