Afternoon in class that is!

Let's Celebrate South Africa!

After trying some wines this past weekend at the iYellow Wine School, I'll hold up my glass to the above statement! I couldn't think of a more perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon than to attend a wine class.  The class is 1.5 hours so it's not a huge time commitment and it's a great way to get your Saturday evening started. The wine class is held at Reds Bistro & Wine Bar, located in downtown Toronto in the financial district. Guests were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and taken to the classroom. Each table was setup with tasting glasses, pens and other materials needed. Looking around the cozy room, people were socializing with one another before the start of the class.

The instructor for the class was Taylor Thompson, the sommelier at Reds Bistro.  He kept things light, fresh and had the audience engaged throughout the class by getting interaction from the students. He discussed the history of wine production in South Africa, the climate, the "terroir",  the production methods and the grape varieties. Each person received a neat booklet that discusses  South African wines with beautiful pictures. I left the class wanting now to visit South Africa ...especially after that amazing Pinotage I tried! Googling (funny how I'm using google as a verb!) pictures of South African wine regions showed me how beautiful South Africa is. The foods that were paired with the wines were delicious. They were prepared by the Reds sous chef Amira Becarevic. Nothing like gourmet food with your wine tasting!

What's great about the iYellow Wine School classes is that they're really geared towards each type of wine lover from the person who is just starting to learn about wine to the person who is a more experienced wine connoisseur. There's always something new to learn. Another perk of attending a class is that after the session finished, we were able to order a glass of anything we liked at half price. This came in handy after class was over and students were mingling with one another. I loved this after-school activity!   In total, there were 8 wines that were tasted during the session (not including the post-class half-priced glass). Good wine, good food and good company...what's not to love.

At the end, people were encouraged to do a blind smell test of 5 out of the 8 wines tried during the class. If you could get all 5 right only by smell alone then you won a bottle of wine. I won a bottle for answering a question in class. I won the Bellingham shiraz Viognier 2007. The question was a) What French region has the blend Shiraz/Viognier and b) Why is the Viognier grape blended with the Shiraz?

iYellow's 5 easy steps to tasting wine...The 5 s':
1. Sight
2. Swirl
3. Smell
4. Sip
5. Savour

The wines on the curriculum:
1) Krone Rose Sparkling $21.95

2) Franschhoek Cellar Chenin Blanc 2008 $18.95
 I really enjoyed this wine on its own. It's unoaked and light with aromas of pear and apple, good acidity with a nice warm finish.

3) Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $11.95
This wine paired nicely with the nicoise salad. Where I enjoyed the Chenin on its own, I enjoyed this wine more with the food. It's so interesting to see the play between the wine and the food. 

Food Pairing: Tuna Nicoise Salad

4) Goats do Roam 2007 $12.95
This is a lighter example of a South African wine with lots of red fruit and good tannin.

5) KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $16.95
Lots of green pepper with this wine! Some cheese will cut some of those tannins. I liked this wine but I think I preferred the 2006 vintage.

Food Pairing: Mini Angus Beef Burger with Blue Cheese Foam

6) Bellingham Shiraz Viognier 2007 $13.95

7) Leopard's Leap Pinotage Shiraz 2007 $12.95

8) Deemersfontein Pinotage 2008
Yummy! This wine is "very like animal". There is so much going on. It's smokey with notes of chocolate, coffee and maple. It's delicious. It's a "Chocolate Coffee Pinotage" according to the producer's website. What do you know, I like all those things! Too bad you can't buy this wine at the liquor store. It is available through a wine agent here in Toronto:

Food Pairing: Smoked Venison and Red Currant

Some things that I learned in class:
a) South African wines have a distinct (in most, pleasant) aroma of forest floor or moss due to the unique soil and geography of the region.
b) Thick legs of a wine (the film that is left on the glass as you swirl your wine around) that fall slowly is a good indication that the wine is from a warmer climate.
c) Viognier is often added to Shiraz (Syrah) to soften the Shiraz as well as to add a nice perfume to the red wine. Viognier is a white grape with lower acidity and it ripens earlier than Shiraz. Shiraz on its own can sometimes be very overpowering so with a small percentage of Viognier, it now becomes smoother.

If I had to choose 2 wines that really stood out for myself, they would be:
1) Franschhoek Cellar Chenin Blanc 2009
2) Deemersfontein Pinotage 2008

I had such a great time and will be definitely checking out more classes! The educational portion was great as was hanging out after and talking with fellow classmates. This class let me try delicious wines at various price points because as you know, price does not allows dictate quality. Anyone interested in coming with me to the next one?