One of last month’s adventures was a wine blending course at Urban Winery in St Peters.
Things I had no eyed deer about Urban Winery:
- I had missed out on getting my name on a vat of wine
- You can take away your own blended wine and labelled bottle
- If you buy a barrel you can be involved in the wine making process from helping crush the fruit at the winery to bottling your own wine
- How to predict whether your lips will go black when you are drinking red wine
Opened earlier this year, Urban Winery lays claim to being the first fully-functioning city based commercial winery in Australia. It is a great space where you can learn about the wine making process, blend wine, get your own personalised barrels and labels, or simply just taste the wine.
The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the amazing warehouse space, crammed with wine barrel upon wine barrel and an extremely long dining table. After watching the movie Ghost I’ve always wanted a New York warehouse style apartment and whilst we waited to get started I sat visualising how I would arrange my furniture should this be my home and how big the parties would be. Urban Winery sits in Precinct 75, a former Taubman’s paint factory, established in the 1900s. Its neighbours include a micro-brewery, an upcycled goods studio and excitingly an Axe throwing centre Maniax, which I made a mental note to try another time.
All wine is made on site and the tour starts with Alex Retief, the founder, explaining the process of wine making and role of the various machines and tanks. I was disappointed to realise that I had missed the opportunity as part of Urban Winery’s Pozible campaign to get my name on a plaque on a tank of wine. Beats a name on a park bench any day!
Alex explains that Urban Winery cold picks grapes from three places overnight, Tumbarumba, Gundagai and the Hilltops. They are then brought in fresh to the city – leading to the unique inner city winery quirk of sometimes requiring the drivers needing to take a break at Pheasants Nest in order to respect St Peters local residents’ peace and quiet in the early hours. The winery will process about 50 tonnes of grapes over the course of a year.
Next, we got down to tasting a variety of red wines. This is where I learnt something I just can’t now unlearn – where on the tongue we taste certain flavours: Tip of the tongue for sweetness, the back and middle for a more acidic taste, and tannins give you that hairy tongue sensation. The latter is definitely good to know as I took the opportunity to ask Alex my favourite question “why do some wines turn your lips black?” The answer he gave was tannins, so now I know that if I get that sensation whilst drinking I need to check a mirror. Now I’m aware of these sensations I think my friends are getting a little annoyed by my David Attenborough style commentary on where on my tongue I am tasting whatever I am eating.
Next we learn about blending, and start experimenting with wine and test tubes. This is a rather more sophisticated version of blending than that which I practised in my university days – turning up to parties and pouring several bottles of cheap wine into the same bucket. This is the point in the workshop where initial trepidation turned into quiet concentration around the room: quiet concentration that rapidly turned into competition at the judging stage, with an almost Masterchef style flurry of activity at the end to mix one more blend that may be the winning one.
The blind judging increased my admiration for those who make a living out of tasting wine. I have to admit that I had tried a lot of wine by that point and making an educated assessment was difficult. However, I was impressed that I did spot my own blend in the pack.
At the end of the session we had the option to buy our own blends with our own labels. I would love to do this another time, but having had a few wines I didn’t trust my taste judgement on this occasion. I did instead leave with a bottle of ARetief Petit Verdot – my new favourite tipple.
As well as blending wine, if you buy a barrel you have the option to get more involved in the wine making process –from crushing the berries to bottling.
Alex is introducing a number of exciting new events in future months including a potential blending for singles event.
I booked the blending workshop via We Teach Me on this occasion, but it can be booked direct.
If you are in Melbourne, also check out people-powered urban winery Noisy Ritual where you can stomp, press and bottle your own wine.
This is not a sponsored post. This represents my personal opinion.