Blog: Why drinking wine on Saturday lunchtimes is good for the soul

It’s easy to get all flowery when describing a wine tasting. You know the sort of thing: “The sugar from the plump, late-harvest grapes adds sublime body, the bouquet caresses one’s nostrils, and the terroir simply oozes onto your taste buds.” However, unless you spit, the reality for most of us is that a wine tasting is a good excuse to get a bit drunk and relax.

That was certainly my opinion until I recently visited The Olive Branch in Clipsham for the first in their new series of ‘Masterclass’ wine (and food) tastings, which take place monthly. After the event I still hold the same opinion, but would add that a good tasting offers the chance to learn a bit about wine making in various parts of the world. It also allows you to unwrap and understand – as well as compare and contrast – flavours and aromas that you wouldn’t normally consider when sipping a glass in front of the telly on a Friday night. I’d add, too, that when the person leading the wine tasting is truly passionate and knowledgeable about the subject – as well as being a bit of a character – it’s possible to have a really great time. In fact, there’s a chance you will become infected, possibly for life, by his or her burning love for wine.

Pedro at the top of the table

That’s Pedro – at the top of the table

Pedro Torres, the Spaniard now living in Leicester who leads The Olive Branch tastings, is certainly passionate about wine. Incredibly so. And that, combined with his unique and charismatic approach, is what made the ‘Discover Grenache Masterclass’ held in The Barn at The Olive Branch so entertaining and interesting. Pedro’s adoration of wine – from the different grape-growing techniques to the rainbow of flavours on offer – is amazingly infectious. I mean, when someone tells you they are off to Spain soon to lug huge buckets of grapes up hills for free, just because they want to get involved, you can’t help but be impressed by the commitment.

So, after trying seven varieties of Grenache – white, red and dessert wines –under Pedro’s guidance, I wouldn’t say I’ve become a wine aficionado. I’m still more of a lover of our national drink – beer. However, I did catch a glimpse of how it’s possible to fall under the spell of wine and wine making. I don’t mean its physically intoxicating properties, but rather everything that goes into creating it, from the growing of the grapes, to the unique geographic characteristics of the regions in which they’re cultivated, to the juice fermentation and the ageing process. Pedro’s descriptions of various wine making techniques – such as ageing grapes in lofts before pressing them to produce a fuller-bodied, sweeter Grenache – were fascinating. His explanation of flavours and aromas – usually accompanied by beautifully descriptive gesticulations – were also wonderful.

Smoked celeriac soup

Oh, and the food was great too. At various points we were served small dishes to match the various wines, including smoked celeriac soup with apple; fish goujons; confit of duck and beetroot with pickled walnut and pomegranate; and salt cod brandade.

After the tasting I ended up buying a bottle of one of the wines we tasted from The Olive Branch’s Pub Shop – the Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc. I was won over by its beautifully clean, fresh taste – as fresh and refreshing as a cool spring breeze on a cloudless day by the seaside.

There you go. See how easy it is to get all flowery when discussing wine? But whether you like a bit of wine floweriness or just like to chill out and get a little drunk while eating some mouthwatering food, The Olive Branch’s new monthly Saturday lunchtime wine tastings are fascinating, flavoursome and great fun, and run with seriously infectious enthusiasm.

Confit of duck

Confit of duck and beetroot with pickled walnut and pomegranate

The Olive Branch’s Wine Masterclasses take place once a month on Saturday lunchtimes. Price £55, including generous tastings of six to eight different wines, plus several tapas-size dishes to match. For details of available dates call 01780 410355.

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.