A church hall, twenty-five guests consisting of family and friends a ‘Winebird’ and six different wines, sound like a strange combination? Maybe, what it added up to was a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment here in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, courtesy of Tesco via the wine community who provided me with the opportunity to treat up to twenty-five guests to a private wine tasting event at a venue of my choice, hosted by the knowledgeable, energetic, and amiable Helena Nicklin aka ‘The Winebird’.To be honest it didn’t take much in the way of persuasion to get twenty-five guests as everyone we asked said yes without hesitation.
Here’s how the night went…. The tasting was to begin at 8.00pm and just as I was leaving to set up I received a message from Helena saying “I know I’m early, but I’m at the venue, it’s all in darkness, have I got the right address? “ panic set in although we had plenty of time as it was only 7.00pm. Luckily the hall was only around the corner and we arrived a few minutes later, just as the doors were being opened.
My son, my daughter’s boyfriend and I were in the advanced party to help with the setting up. The wines had already been sent by Tesco to my house the day before giving me time to chill the whites.
Tables, chairs, glasses, tasting sheets, bottled water, dry crackers were all set up with military precision as Helena proceeded to open up and check the wines that’s when the second mini-panic set in as we didn’t have a corkscrew but a quick phone call to my daughter and wife who were on their way and the problem was solved and the opener duly arrived.
Around 7.30pm everything was pretty much set up and my family and I had a very enjoyable chat with Helena while we waited for the guests to arrive. All our guests were greeted personally by Helena (nice touch) and by 8.00pm all bar a couple of late stragglers were seated all eagerly anticipating the evening ahead.
I was initially asked what my preference was for the tasting and my brief to Helena via Tesco was to maybe sample non-mainstream wines giving people a chance to taste something different, with so many different grapes out there it was the ideal opportunity to let my guests drink something they wouldn’t normally think of buying. Most of the guests although regular wine drinkers only had some knowledge about wine and most of them told me that have never been to an organised tasting.
The wines Helena chose were all from the Tesco Finest range they included,
Three whites… Picpoul de Pinet 2013 (France), Albarino 2013 (Spain) , Tingleup Riesling 2012.(Aus)
Three Reds…. Frappato 2012 ( Italy ), Duoro 2013 (Portugal), Ribera del Duero Reserve 2009 (Spain).
I’ve actually drank all these wines many times (what does that say about me ??)
The evening started promptly with everyone on their best behaviour and Helena introducing herself and presenting in her own very distinctive and thoroughly entertaining style, anyone who has visited her website or seen her ‘YouTube’ videos will know what I mean.
As the tasting progressed the wine started to flow and with Helena’s energy and enthusiasm the mood around the hall changed as people started to get more involved and the inevitable friendly banter started with Helena taking it all in her stride.
Starting with the whites and with a show of hands, it seemed like not many people had tasted or even heard of the three wines on show especially the Picpoul and the Albarino. The favourite just, was the Albarino followed by the Picpoul surprisingly to me the Tingleup Riesling came in third although some people really liked it, I thought all three were excellent.
Of the three reds, the Frappato was probably the favourite and the least well known, with everyone commenting on how easy it was to drink. The Douro again not many people had tried and it seemed to be warmly received. For me, though the star of the show was the delicious Ribera del Duero Reserva and quite a few others thought so too but I think on a show of hands ( my hand went up for all three, all six actually!) the Frappato won the battle of the reds, just.
The tasting lasted for around an hour and 20 minutes and by the end, everyone looked as though they all thoroughly enjoyed the evening a few glasses of wine always helps as well! So a big thanks to the Tesco team and of course the brilliant ‘Winebird’ Helena for a great evening and if these tastings were ever to be rolled out by Tesco up and down the country, on a regular basis they probably will be very successful, I see no reason why not.