Wine tasting with the experts


Two members of the Rye News team were lucky enough to experience wine tasting at Rye Fine Wine recently.

First, in November, Abigail Cooper-Hansen took her Danish relatives to a private wine tasting of local English vineyards, to ensure they appreciated the quality of white and sparkling wines being developed in Sussex and Kent:

“So now, have a little piece of this cheese, and taste the Charles Palmer again… Tell me how the notes have changed on your palate?”

We are not in the middle of Epernay, France, enjoying various champagnes. Instead, we are gathered around the bar area of Rye Fine Wines, with owner Graeme Foster providing a full-on wine tasting evening. He chose three different vineyards, all less than 10 miles from Rye. All were stonking-good, and complex enough, as Graeme explained, to change in flavour as we sipped and ate different snacks he had prepared.

We asked him to design a private tasting event to introduce visitors to this area of vineyard England. Charles Palmer seemed to win the tasting contest, but I loved the Oxney. They pride themselves in their organic process, and it seemed to help me feel no ill effects the next day (from far too much of that wine tasting). There are at least four other wineries equally close to Rye to visit. But why would you? Instead, Rye Fine Wines can offer this lovely, knowledgeable, guided tour through our local vineyards.

It isn’t just the wine which draws you into this rather perfect wine-lovers haven though. As we sat there tasting, a local came in “just because” and was welcomed to their usual perch for their favourite glass of wine. And, if you visit on another evening, you might also experience a regular who just happened to leave his guitar behind from his last visit, and who soon gets others’ feet tapping, listening to his musical talent. Whoever is there, Graeme and his partner Cathy’s love for what they sell has created this comfortable, unique, intimate little jewel and leaves our foreign visitors wishing they had this kind of place where they live.

KT Bruce recently attended a public wine tasting event at the store, held regularly to celebrate different wine regions around the world:

The first thing you get when you enter Rye Fine Wines is a warm welcome and lots of banter from the hosts Graeme and Cathy. Soon you begin to absorb their passion for fine wines and matching the wine to the punter, which is a subtle art. It is like being at home but with a wine expert on tap.

Graeme likes to introduce his clientele to wines they have not yet discovered and organises wine tastings in his cellar below. It is warm and intimate. Add to the mixture a wine expert, and the evening will be a great success. Robert Steel from For the Love of Wine Ltd introduced the wines of Puglia to a group of seven people on the afternoon of Saturday, November 26.

He had an easy charm and plenty of interesting and often funny stories about the wines of Italy. There are over 700 individual grape varieties, so choosing wines is quite a challenge. The first wine to be tasted was a Fiarno which is a high-quality, white-wine grape variety widely used in southern Italy. It is nutty and textured with floral, honeyed notes. This was highly popular around the table and Robert explained that there were important things to be aware of when tasting wine: first look at the wine. Then swirl it in the glass, which enables you to break up the surface tension of the wine, so that when you sniff it all the lovely odours are released. Then the sip, followed by slurping.

Slurping helps you aerate the wine and makes it flow around your mouth covering your palate. Evidently, your sense of smell makes up seventy-five percent of your sense of taste. We were told to hold your nose, and any wine will taste completely different. Then the final ‘s’ is spit. However as there were only four wines to taste, the participants were permitted to swallow, much to their relief!

Robert said that the best thing about wine was the fact that there was no right or wrong: you either like it or you don’t. It is down to individual taste and just because it is expensive or cheap does not matter – what matters is that you like it.

There were two white wines and two reds to experience. I am not going to give too much away, because Robert has said that he will come back and I could not recommend this experience more highly, so no spoilers. Around the table there was much laughter interspersed with Robert’s incredible knowledge of the wines in Italy. The time disappeared far too quickly and everyone agreed that there was so much to learn and who better to learn it from.


Image Credits: Kt bruce .

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  1. Excellent review of the Puglia tasting event KT. Every visit to Rye Fine Wines is an education interspersed with generous helpings of social interaction at its best. Looking forward to our next visit already! and the beauty of one’s wine education is it will never be completed, but no disappointment in that just a joy to embrace.

  2. It was so good seeing you and Kath again, and Robert’s knowledge of the Puglia wines was exceptional. Really pleased that you enjoyed the whole experience. We will look to do more tastings throughout next year

  3. We were fortunate indeed to be part of the wine tasting evening, and how we enjoyed it! (not simply because we are rather fond of wine). The wine cellar at Rye Fine Wines is a perfect atmospheric haven for sitting around a good sized table, hearing the murmurs and laughter up above, and enjoying sipping and opining about wine. Robert was full of expertise and knowledge, and Graeme was like a wise owl, complementing Robert’s knowledge from his stool in the corner. Looking forward to the next one. Well done Graeme and Cathy.

  4. Loved it! Learned a lot, met some lovely people and all whilst sampling wine (and cheese). Seriously what’s not to like?! Highly recommend


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