Total wine novice ALIX NORMAN heads to a wine tasting to see what it is that lies at the bottom of a glass
Perhaps it was growing up in the Middle East. Maybe it’s because I already have more than enough vices. Whatever the reason, alcohol has never figured largely in my life, and I’ve never really indulged in what, friends assure me, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So when gentlemen of my acquaintance discourse with a knowing air on ‘nose’ and ‘bouquet’, ‘colour’ and ‘palate’, I tend to dismiss the chatter out of hand as a poncey attempt to impress. It turns out I may have been wrong. The other day I attended my first official wine tasting and learnt that there is a lot more to this nectar of the gods than I ever suspected.
Held at Nicosia’s Cava Nostra, this wine tasting would be for five vintages grown in the Kannaviou district of Paphos and produced by the Ezousa Winery. I was fully expecting to encounter an expectorating crowd of self-important wine buffs, or perhaps a gaggle of sommeliers seized by the breathless hush of wine appreciation. In reality, the cava was filled – as far as I could discern – with a rather motley crew of genial, down-to-earth people much like myself.
Shepherded inside by Lambros Serghides, one of the co-owners of Cava and its attendant bar, Silver Star, I was made to feel quite at home despite my lack of knowledge. Finding an immediate friend in Elena Ghalanos, Business Development Director at Ghalanos Distributors Ltd, who number Ezousa wineries among their portfolio of wines and spirits – I was surprised to learn that wine tasting is actually a very individual undertaking.
“Wine is a personal business,” says Elena, who it transpires has studied the stuff for years. “Providing you know a few facts, everything else is according to your personal taste.” I breathe a sigh of relief; I may not know much about alcohol but I can hold an opinion with the best of them, and it seems that this may be what it’s all about. And Elena has an extensive knowledge about wine that she’s more than willing to share.
Joined by Michalis Constandinides, the vintner and owner of Esouza, we are soon chatting cosily over our wine glasses, and I’m being appraised of the basics and background to a good wine. Apparently, creating a fine vintage is all about the vintner and the terroir, which last includes all the elements such as altitude, humidity, soil, orientation which characterise a vineyard. “The terroir is everything except the human influence,” Elena reveals, “but it’s the winemaker himself who makes the magic that goes into the bottles.”
“Ezousa is a boutique winery,” Michalis continues, “producing about 80,000 bottles of value for money wines.” As I gasp at the thought of such amounts, he laughs. “Don’t worry, we only drink about 80 of them ourselves,” he quips. With Elena’s help, he explains what I should be looking for in my glass: sight, nose, palate and feel or weight. We discuss the aromas of whites and the bouquets of reds, and I discover that I should be determining sufficient fruit intensity, a balance between flavour groups and a long aftertaste. “Only a few whites will take barrel ageing, so normally they only have primary aromas from the grape itself and secondary aromas from the fermentation process,” says Elena. “Reds, on the other hand, also contain the tertiary aromas of evolution like leather, vanilla, spices and herbs, farmyard aromas and the smokiness taken from the barrel.”
Swirling their glasses, the two teach me to look at both the colour and the legs of the wine where it adheres to the glass, before breathing in the nose, or the scent. I’m fully expecting flowery phrases to scintillate the air, but actually it’s all rather matter of fact. We’re tasting the Ezousa Xinisteri, a white that looks like spring sunshine trapped in a glass. “Floral, citrus, lemongrass,” Elena suggests, receiving a nod of approval from Michalis. To this neophyte, the crystal nectar evokes a Tuscan morning, dew sparkling on the fields and pale blue skies soaring overhead. Elena gets it immediately, inhales deeply from her glass and joins in my game: “It’s early morning on an empty beach; there’s a slight breeze and I can smell the grass. I’m thinking about having fish with lemon sauce for lunch.” We toast each other in mutual admiration. Round two.
The Esouza Eros Maratheftiko Rose is my next test, and I’m encouraged to put the benefits of their tuition into practise. I notice the legs immediately, and get points for describing the colour as a pale ruby. To my untrained nose, there’s an aroma of blackberries that takes me back to my grandmother’s garden, legs and hands scratched as I stand in the stream gathering fruit. “Not bad,” Elena concurs, adding a nearby orchard, cherries, white roses and strawberries to the mix.
By the time we’re onto our last tasting, a deep red also of the Maratheftiko variety, I have tipsily distinguished myself with the use of the word ‘smouldering’, typifying the ruby nectar as an Alpha Male among wines, a vintage I would happily date. It’s quite possible my eloquence stems from the fact that, in the course of the evening, the learning process has been accompanied by rather more swigging than spitting; well, on my part certainly. And as I stagger off into the night, a bottle under each arm, I’m firmly resolved to build on this newfound knowledge. Starting now. Cheers!
For further details of wine tastings at Cava Nostra, call 22 374840
For information about Ezousa Winery, call 70008844, email [email protected] or visit the website at www.ezousawinery.com.cy