Last week I was invited along to Waitrose’s Spring wine, spirits and beer tasting event at their cookery school in Finchley Road. They hold these tasting events twice a year and this one was over two days. I went along on the afternoon of the second day, excited to try a host of wines from around the world.
As soon as I arrived, I spotted William Sitwell (editor of Waitrose Food and food critic, often seen on Masterchef) at the end of the room. Although I was tempted, I resisted the urge to get a selfie or an autograph!
It was a very serious affair with wine journalists tasting pretty much each and every wine – 193 to be exact – and making notes in the booklet we were given, which detailed each wine, beer and spirit. Unlike me, they didn’t swallow – they used the spittoons at the end of each table. Now, I must hasten to add that I did not try ALL the wines, because I would definitely have needed a spittoon… and help getting home!
Instead, I looked at the booklet and chose wines that I thought I might actually, as a Waitrose customer, like to buy as well as a few I may not buy (given the price) but was interested in tasting. I’m more of a sparkling wine kind of girl but when I do have red wine, I tend to go for wines from Argentina or Chile however a Pinot Noir from Romania caught my eye so I had a taste. WOW. It was fabulous! I was speaking with one of the wine buyers and she said that Eastern Europe is up and coming for wine. I stupidly didn’t take a picture of the bottle but the wine is called Waitrose Blueprint Romanian Pinot Noir 2017 Dealu Mare and retails at an amazing £5.99 a bottle! It’s exclusive to Waitrose and also vegan. I’m having some friends round for dinner in a couple of weeks and this is definitely making my wine shopping list. Looks like Waitrose customers love it too, judging by the reviews.
In terms of the whites, my favourite was the Arnaud Lassalle Hautes de Perriere 2017 Pouilly-Fumé which retails at £16.79 – not an everyday wine but one for dinner parties and special occasions.
I swiftly moved on to my favourites – the sparkling wines – of which I tasted a few… I started with the new vintage Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut 2011 Champagne, which retails at £130. I think this must be the most expensive drink I’ve ever had and it was superb. And how absolutely beautiful is the bottle?
Next I moved on to the Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2007 Champagne, priced at £105. Again, an absolutely gorgeous wine but best for special occasions. However, Waitrose is offering 25% off this wine from 27 July to 7 August, making it £78.75.
Now, the next sparkling wine I tried was absolutely fascinating. I’ve had Grillo before in Sicily but had no idea there was a sparkling version! Speaking with one of the Waitrose wine buyers, she explained that regions in Italy are trying to produce the next ‘prosecco’ so perhaps Grillo will be it? It was really good and a bargain at £11.99. We’re actually going to Sicily at the end of June so I’m keeping an eye out to see if it’s on restaurant menus and in their supermarkets.
I couldn’t not taste a British sparkling wine so I tried the Nyetimber Classic Cuvèe, which is priced at £34.99 a bottle. It’s a really lovely sparkling wine and perfect for celebrating with. Lucky for you, Waitrose is offering 25% off from 16 May to 5 June and then again from 27 June to 10 July, making it £25.99. Stock up for Wimbledon!
I was encouraged to try the Jansz Premium Cuvèe from Tasmania and I’m glad I did! Who knew Tasmania did sparkling wine? I certainly didn’t. It retails at £17.99 and is suitable for vegans. From 27 June to 10 July it’s 25% off, making it £13.49 so grab a bottle and give it a try.
Now I’m not a beer drinker at all and rarely drink spirits (apart from Aperol, which I drink every weekend) so I just took a picture of these Beavertown beers, which caught my eye because the art design is so cool. They’re actually brewed in London! A buyer for Waitrose assured me that they’re very good and I’d take his word for it.
By this stage I was feeling slightly tipsy so thought it best to go home, however on my way out the lovely Bethan who works in Comms for Waitrose asked if I’d tried the South African cider called Sxollie? Of course I hadn’t so off I went back inside to taste it. The Sxollie Cripps Pink Cider is exclusive to Waitrose and retails at £1.99 a bottle. It’s award-winning and best of all, every purchase helps women in agriculture in Africa. What’s not to love? Oh and it tasted delicious too.
I had a great time at the press tasting event! My absolute highlights were the Romanian Pinot Noir, the sparkling Grillo (which I’m going to look out for in Sicily) and the Nyetimber Classic Cuvèe – I’ll definitely be adding them to my shopping basket.