Winetasting Events in Madrid
I always thought it was such a waste of perfectly good wine to have to swirl and spit at wine tastings. So with a little uncertainty of what exactly would be expected of me, a newbie to the field, I arrived at MadridNoFilter’s evening wine tasting event held in the lovely Restaurante Atalanta on Gran Via. As I’m prone to being a rather clumsy eater and drinker, I had worn all black to mask any wine stains from potential spitting spillage, just to be on the safe side.
I was warmly greeted by CJ, the founder of MadridNoFilter, and welcomed into the intimate group of Spanish and American women. In front of me on the elegantly laid out table, lay a sea of shimmering, empty wineglasses and, thankfully, not a spittoon in sight. CJ immediately put me at ease with her open personality and genuine smile. As this was the second level in the series of tastings, I had entered the evening’s event knowing very little about wine, other than that it came in different colours and its potency had quite an effect on my mental clarity.However, CJ gracefully took my novice status in her stride and, throughout the whole evening, took great care in explaining wine terminology and ensured I felt connected to the discussions and process.
Paloma, the Spanish speaking wine expert, introduced us to four prestigious Spanish wines of lesser-known DO (Denomination of Origin): one white, one rosé and two reds, each hailing from different wineries around the country. Watching and listening to Paloma and CJ explain in Spanish then English respectively, was like being party to an elegant non-competitive tennis game, each politely taking turns to serve minus the ‘deuce’ and ‘advantage’ battle. Like our wine and tapas pairings, their dispositions, calm enthusiasm and genuine passion for the subject matter complemented each other perfectly.
Paloma gave us an overview of each wine, complete with visual presentations to explain the physical geography of the vineyard’s location, the climate, and history of the winery. After each wine was poured we followed a three-step process of sight, smell and taste to get a better understanding of the wine being presented. Using a colour chart as a little ‘cheat sheet’, we tried to identify the age of the wine. The Spanish girls crooned over the delicate colour of the rosé, proclaiming it to be most fashionable! Having never really thought about it before, I found it fascinating to learn that while white wines darken with age, red wines become lighter. I can’t say I mastered this stage, but I became hooked by the following game of ‘guess the aroma’. CJ passed mystery containers around the lively little group and after debating over wafts such as tobacco, coffee, banana, and thyme, we simultaneously “turn(ed) up the volume” in our wine glasses (also known as carefully swirling the glass around and around to release the aromas) to try and identify which secret ingredients it held. By the second glass of wine I already felt like somewhat of an expert as I confidently identified hints of floral notes with my inhalation.
Finally we made it to the glorious tasting stage. I sipped, sucked air in through my teeth, and swooshed the wine around my mouth before swallowing and exhaling through my nose, and allowed the flavours to envelope me. Silently we pondered our own interpretations of the sensations before intellectually bantering back and forth about the acidity, astringency and unctuousness. We were presented with beautiful little tapas perfectly paired with each wine, including sardines over a sweet walnut spread, warm and creamy mini croquetas, and Russian potato salad with a zippy soused chicken.
Halfway through my final tasting, the relaxing effects of the wine had fully kicked in and Paloma and CJ’s words began to take on a sort of background music quality as I sat staring at the array of half-drunk glasses lined up in front of me. It had been a wonderfully educational and enjoyable evening with the added bonus of having the opportunity practice some Spanish. However, I have a newfound appreciation for that traditional spittoon for lightweights like myself, but do look forward to the next wine tasting level, where we’ll learn how to pair wine with the perfect meal.