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Flavour of the Month: Tastour Wine speedTASTING

Published 16 April 2011

Hosting regular food & drink events which combine educating, socialising, eating and drinking; Tastour is a tasty proposition indeed, so when invited to try out a speedTASTING event recently, London Insider didn’t delay.

The speed tasting format is exactly as it sounds, with its inspiration in speed dating. The tasting is split into rounds, and at the start of each new round, guests move table so that they’re sitting with new people.

Dessert wines were the theme of the tasting which we attended, and so having seen that Tastour host and founder Kelly Bayliffe won last year’s Wine Educator of the Year award at the International Wine Challenge we were confident we’d be in good hands. It wasn’t just Kelly’s warm welcome and a glass of fizz on arrival at the venue that made a good first impression, though. Almost all of the other guests were just as friendly, enthusiastic and genuinely interested in food and drink. An impressive turnout.

As the tasting begins, there are generous pours of dessert wines ranging from classic Sauternes, ancient Tokaji and vintage Port. Kelly takes the time to explain each wine, guide a comparative tasting and impart numerous facts in an informative but entirely fun way. What’s more impressive, though, is that she actually knows when to shut up. Having visited other tasting events throughout the capital, it’s instantly apparent that one of the trickiest things to get right is finding a balance between giving guests the information and facts they want and still giving them an opportunity to chat amongst themselves.

The details of the tasting which are given at the point of booking allude to wine and food pairings with the likes of chocolate, stilton and nuts. We’ll admit to not getting too excited at the prospect of this as usually at wine tastings it’s restricted to a mere bite or two at strictly regimented moments. The fact that here each tasting table is laden with a tray of food mounted with berries, cheeses, nuts, chocolates and more in hefty portions is a fantastically generous touch that doesn’t go unappreciated. That despite being guided to food pairings for certain wines we’re never restricted to them is another bonus. In fact, host Kelly encourages us to try our own pairings and see how they work, which is both good fun and a good conversation starter.

The evening follows with a unique opportunity to try some Port which has been left open and gone past its best, by way of a lesson in what oxidised wine tastes like. Letting good Port go bad in the name of education takes some dedication, if you ask us, and it’s a fascinating first-time experience, though we’re glad there’s still some of the good stuff to try, too.

Just as it seems like the night has come to an end, it appears that there’s more food on the way. It’s starchy alcohol-soaking fare such as potato wedges rather than anything too gastronomic, but probably about right given the stage of the night. It’s now that the social aspect of the event really comes into its own when the bar opens and guests are left to mingle, with the added benefit of having being well-oiled with social lubricant in the form of sticky wine, of course.

It’s a Saturday night out, it’s a dinner and it’s a very informative wine tasting. And tickets start from just £25, which we reckon is a massive bargain. In thinking of any criticism of our Tastour experience, all that comes to mind is that the chosen venue shut promptly at 11 forcing us all to move on – but the fact that we were still around four and a half hours after the tasting started, it’s really more like praise.

Based on our experience, we couldn’t recommend Tastour highly enough, whether you’re going on your own or with friends. Visit the website for details on upcoming events as well as their regular monthly social drinks. You might just see us there.