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Notes on a wine tasting

Do you know your Chianti from your Claret? Until recently, I was a wine dunce - but a tasting at Cellar Wines has changed that.

It’s an undisputed fact that I like a wine. Usually it’s a Sauv Blanc. Sometimes a Prosecco. Occasionally, a Charders. Dahling.

But on a Sunday, I drink red. Always red. Perhaps it’s the fact that it pairs so well with a Sunday roast. Or maybe, it’s just that by Sunday, my palate is looking for something different.

Until recently, I wasn’t fussy about my reds. As an Aussie, I naturally lean towards the Barossa Valley reds – Cab Sauv or Shiraz. As long as it’s mellow and smooth, I’ll drink it.

But I’ve recently become a convert to Italian wines – and Italian reds in particular – after attending a wine tasting event at Cellar Wines in Ripley.


The event was Chianti in Focus: Castello di Ama. We sampled six wines from Castello di Ama, a family-owned estate at the heart of the Chianti Classico region, and snacked on cheeseboards and chacuterie meat magnums stacked with English cheeses, artisan crackers, some gorgeous chutneys, salamis and chorizo.  There were 12 of us around a long table in the main Cellar Wines shop space, which made for a sociable and fun evening.

Castello di Ama’s export director Linda talked us through each of the wines. And after far too many years as a wine div, here are six things I learnt:

1… The year 2015 was a great vintage worldwide, which means that the Al Poggio Chardonnay di Toscana we sampled was a goodie. It’s also the only white wine produced by this vineyard.

2… Not all Chianti is the same. Chianti and Chianti Classico are separate regions, producing different wines. Castello di Ama produce four Chianti Classico wines.


3… The Sangiovese grape is the one most used in the Chianti Classico wines. In Tuscany, this grape is king. Castello di Ama’s 2015 vintage Ama Chianti Classico blends 96 per cent Sangiovese with 4 per cent Merlot which makes a very drinkable wine. And it is indeed easy to drink, as I proved when I downed both my own and Mr Muddy’s.

4… Winemaking it not an exact science. At Castello di Ama, they’re just a little bit artisan crazy and like to play with their blends. In the case of the Riserva 2009, it worked a treat and this adventurous blend of Sangiovese, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo and Merlot grapes has created a wonderful wine. It was my favourite of the night.

5… In Tuscany, 2011 was an elegant vintage – so wines from this year are sure to be good. The San Lorenzo 2011 Chianti Classico Selzione confirmed this to be true.

6… If you drink this much wine, you end up a bit pissed. So make sure you have a designated driver, or you book a cab.

Cellar Wines hosts free informal wine and delicatessen tastings every Saturday, and regular wine tasting events. The next one, Burgundy Tasting, is on Thurs Oct 26. Cost is is £35 per person.



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1 comment on “Notes on a wine tasting”

  • Stephanie Shepherd December 20, 2017

    Hi Amber,
    Top tip, if you’re interested in wine and food and sharing both in convivial company you should check out the International Wine & Food Society. They have branches all over the UK and internationally but best of all they’re active in Surrey and in London and welcome new members. Contact me after the Festive Break for more info.
    Merry Christmas,


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