From A to Zin

Author: Adam Crohill

So, a little while ago I went wine tasting and during the course of the event something quite frankly astonishing happened. More about that in a bit but first let me get one thing out of the way. I like wine but I am not, nor do I aspire to be an expert, but the point surely is that you don’t have to be an “expert” in something to enjoy it…

I’m a big advocate of trying new things, in restaurants I will be the one looking for something far out to choose and I’ll be asking the waiter a whole host of questions about this dish I’ve found that I have no idea how to pronounce because I’m pretty sure I’m going to order it. This curiosity has resulted in me consuming a multitude of oddities from sea anemone in Tokyo to possibly the weirdest looking thing I’ve ever eaten, Percebes, a type of long necked barnacle that is a delicacy in Lisbon – check out my Instagram picture of Percebes. Anyway I digress, but my point is that I tend to shy away from trying new wine – If I’m drinking white I will look for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and for red it’s always a Malbec. Always.

I think I’m scared of asking for recommendations from a wine waiter because in the back of my mind I think they are just going to recommend the most expensive bottle… And then If I don’t choose it i’ll look silly. This is a ridiculous line of thinking – if you ask a waiter for a food recommendation they doesn’t automatically suggest the Chateaubriand with a lobster on the side do they? Then there is the issue of pronunciation… Don’t get it wrong or you’ll look stupid… That’s what’s going through my head when trying to remember if you pronounce it RYES-ling or REES-ling and at the last minute when I can feel the words forming in my mouth I’ll go safe with a Sauvignon Blanc (but is it BLANK or BLON… oh god – just trail your voice off toward the end… Perfect). Such a far cry form the person asking what do the barnacles taste like? How do you eat them? do I need to order anything else or will the barnacles be enough to fill me up?

Does anyone else have this problem? I think I just need to realise that I don’t have to sound like an expert, or even know how to pronounce the wine I want in order to get my mits on a glass.

Red Or White?

Ok, so back to the wine tasting story – by the way I totally recommend wine tasting – it was great fun. When you try six reds and six whites back to back you really can begin to appreciate what you are drinking on a new level and find some wine you really like. The tasting event that I attended was very relaxed, fun and informal – at one point the host asked for volunteers to take part in a blindfolded wine identification. five or six people volunteered for the test which could not have been more simple – identify if the wine in your mouth is red or white.

Seriously, no one could do it – at room temperature only two of the six people correctly categorised the reds and whites.

So now that I’ve identified that pretty much none of us are experts I felt it necessary to compile a chart containing the phonetic pronunciation of the common red and white grape varieties. I’ll be printing myself a copy (maybe even laminate it) to take out on my next food and wine adventure, but I suggest that you simply click the image below and then pin it to your favourite board.


When putting this chart together I got some help from Matt Skinner because, like I said, I am no expert but Matt most certainly is having co-founded the Fifteen restaurant chain with Jamie Oliver and subsequently working there for six years as head Sommelier.

His book “The Juice” is a fantastic companion and brings the cheeky no-nonsense Jamie Oliver approach to the world of wine. It’s great further reading and you can buy it from Amazon here.

Who fancies a large glass of KAB-er-nay SO-veen-yon after all that?

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Follow Adam on instagram @adamcrohill
This post may include affiliate links.
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11 thoughts on “From A to Zin

  1. We have an amazing wine merchants called Tanners in our local town who do a wine tasting evening of 40 wines…. yes I have been and yes it was hangover inducing…

    1. Ha. Sounds brilliant… At my wine tasting I was fully expecting to have to do the thing where you swash the wine around and then spit it out… There was none of this, which frankly came as quite a relief.

      As the evening wore on it got quite lively.

  2. My friends and I have wine tasting evenings/dinner parties which is always hilarious as they have their own personal wine merchant (posh friends!!!) and so he will come and do the evening based on use ordering a certain amount of wine. My friends buy excessive amounts so it isn’t a problem! He matches it to our tastes and we actually pick the cheapest bottle as our favourite as often as the most expensive . I also used to do the advertising for a lot of big wine brands so had to pretend to be extremely knowledgable. I wasn’t! Wish I’d had your guide back then!

  3. We have an awesome local wine merchants too, they do all kinds of tastings (in fact, I just bought tickets to their Spring wine tasting). They’re really helpful in the shop too even if you only want a 5 quid bottle.

    Amusing story – the husband and I had tickets to a rum tasting they ran a couple of years ago and we randomly decided to dress up as pirates for it (as you do). It was hilarious so ever since then, we’ve always dressed up on something appropriate for the tasting.

    1. Claire, it sounds like you are living la vida loco. Good skills.
      I’m thinking I need to find myself a local wine merchant too… Anyone know of any in the Cheltenham area?

  4. I have exactly the same default wine choices so will endeavour to work through the chart (which looks amazing as well as very informative). All in the name of broadening my horizons you understand…..

  5. we did a wine tasting in New Zealand which I loved but resulted in much staggering around the vineyard. Classy. I’m doing one lead by Majestic next week in Sheffield. I hope to god I don’t have to spit in the bucket. It takes every bit of fun out of the experience!

    1. On my california road trip a couple of years back not hitting some of the nappa valley vin yards was a bit of a regret… Oh well… Reason to go back I suppose 😉

      I’ve got fingers crossed that there is no bucket Hannah.

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