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On Tasting
Playing the 'Hit Me' Wine Game
Monday, 10th December, 2012  - David Farmer

A few months back I was in Brisbane and by late afternoon needed a glass of wine. Being in Fortitude Valley I was taken to Belle Epoque (Emporium) which was expensively done up in the French bistro look. I gather this has not been successful and perhaps the locals are looking for the taste of modern Brisbane.

As I do these days I walked to the bar and asked for a glass of best quality white wine, your selection, and a beer for my companion. "But what sort of wine would you like"; "I like all wine, so just hit me with something you personally like". I was passed the wine list and shown the page of 'wines by the glass'. Not giving up I ventured with, "But you selected all of these wines and know far better than me which are the best". "But they are all good and you should tell me which one you would like". Not getting anywhere I played my ace; "From the list hit me me with the wine of excitement". Reluctantly I got my glass which was an Adelaide Hills pinot gris and was O.K. I returned for another but asked for something different. The waitress may have thought this could turn ugly and perhaps being at the end of her shift went the safest route. I was given a different pinot gris which was not as interesting as the first.

It takes effort to move beyond the first steps with wine. Many take these early steps and then stay right at the next spot. This is no bad thing but you miss out on quite a lot, so keep moving and do not settle for a few favourites, settle for the lot.

Here is a wine and food critic using the 'hit me' approach. Necia Wilden in The Australian, November 27th; 'The waiter's challenge', covers the experience of dining on a budget at Lupino in Melbourne and writes; "Hit me with your best shot - food and wine for 50 bucks, please." I like the style as it takes confidence.

The Oakridge Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2011 at $10 a glass becomes; "The wine is fine, a typical Aussie chardonnay". Well I donít think that Oakridge is a typical chardonnay, if such a thing can exist though perhaps the reference is to the fact that Australian wines on average have more flavour and alcohol than European wines. Above all when you are stopping at one glass you want to make sure the wine delivers a lot of flavour.

It was though a later remark that got my attention; "When the purse strings are looser, I'll be ordering the flathead with tomato and basil salad, $35, and drinking 2011 Pieropan Soave from Veneto, $13.50 a glass".

Perhaps I'm reading too much into these remarks but to think a Soave is a step up from a Yarra Valley chardonnay suggests Ms Wilden is not yet ready for the first division 'hit me' team. Wine tasting leads to many blind corners such as a cellar palate or just drinking what you know, like and are familiar with. The reverse can also creep up which is best expressed by the old adage 'familiarity breeds contempt' which means you are startled by the unfamiliar taste of a wine and make the assumption that it is better than what you have been drinking. This strikes us all and anything new must be welcomed but only as an addition to the drinking repertoire.

So think about joining the 'hit me' wine game as it will surely keep you on your toes but the rules are, take what comes, no complaints or regrets and you can't sneak off and ask for a favourite. And please do not be satisfied with your current views about wine.

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