I’m going to start this blog with a warning: don’t go to a wine tasting on a Wednesday night unless you have incredible will power or a very understanding boss!
But let me start at the beginning.
As I was moseying through Norwich last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see a message from No. 79 appear on Twitter, inviting me to an intimate wine-tasting session on Wednesday night. Having previously had a splendid night there, how could I possibly say no?
Starting at 6.30, I had the quickest change imaginable after work, before heading out to meet my bestie at No.79 for an informative evening of deliciousness. Thankfully I live within walking distance, so transport wasn’t an issue!
A world of wine
We were greeted at the entrance by the lovely Jasper, who showed us to our table and explained the order of proceedings for the night: a pre-dinner tasting, sampling wines from France, Italy and Spain, followed by a three-course meal with specially paired wines.
It was all very relaxed and unpretentious, I must say. Having been to a handful of wine-tasting sessions over the years, they have been easygoing affairs. No one expects you to have Jilly Goulden’s tastebuds and the experts are always happy to answer questions and give advice a and it was no different at No.79. There were around 20 of us in attendance and we all got talking about what we liked, what we didn’t and had a bit of a giggle. It was a very friendly affair.
Our first stop was at the French wines table, where were looked after by the lovely Jerome of Bijou Bottles.
He had four to sample: two red and two white. My favourite of the whole evening was the Inzolia, a bright, unoaked chardonnay, which was astonishing considering I don’t like Chardonnay! It was light, refreshing and citrusy – I could just imagine sitting in the south of France, sipping it in the balmy evening heat.
Jerome was happy to talk about good wine vs bad, organic vs GM wines and expensive vs cheap wines, explaining thing in a way that a novice like me could understand. I really felt like I learned a lot!
Jasper manned the Italian table, again with two red and two white. I tend to be a lover of all thing Italian and really enjoyed the rich, berry flavoured Montepulciano, which had a hint of spice on the after taste.
I’m going to admit that it was around this point that I realised I was slightly sloshed. By the time I got to Spain, I’d sampled eight glasses of wine on an empty stomach. And in spite of pouring away a huge amount of wine, things started to get a little hazy.
The fascinating thing I found out at the Spanish table was that there is a huge difference between the a Temperanillo Reserva and Crianza. The Crianza is probably the nicest red I tried all night; it had a smoky aroma, berry flavours and a honey after taste. I fell a little in love with it!
Meat and cheese
It’s at this point that I should say that the evening didn’t quite go according to plan, whereby the wine tasting and the meal was meant to finish at 9pm. We didn’t actually sit down to eat until around 8.30 – by which time most of us were feeling squiffy. Forgive me if this section of the blog is a tad vague…
The starter was an incredibly rich and creamy fondue accompanied by garlicky delicious croutons, which perfectly complimented the cheese. I will confess that I might have dipped my finger in it when I ran out of bread. I couldn’t help it – it was so moreish!
This was followed by a charcuterie board with venison carpaccio, goats cheese, pickled walnuts, chicken ballotine and herb croquettes. While it was all flavoursome, the venison carpaccio was incredible; it was melt-in-the-mouth, sweet, salty and slightly citrus, all at once. I would love to know where No.79 get that from.
Needless to say, we were feeling quite full – and yet somehow we managed to fit in a pear frangipani accompanied by a pear cognac. The light sponge and the silken fruit were the ideal pairing for the sweet, smooth, fruity spirit, which again proved my preconceptions wrong. I thought that all brandy was vile, but then I fell a little bit in love with pear cognac. I’m going to have to contact Jerome to find out when I can get a bottle.
By the time we had finished eating and said our good nights, it was around 10.30 and we were all tiddly, tired but thoroughly sated. And at £30 a head, I think we could all agree it was excellent value for money. I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for another wine tasting at No.79 – just don’t tell my boss!
To find out more about the events taking place at No.79, visit them on Facebook.
Full disclosure: I was invited to the event free of charge by No.79.