Learning about wine is the perfect excuse to drink in the P.M.
Most people go to Spiral at Sofitel for its legendary buffets, but their wine appreciation class is well worth the journey as well. After a hard week at the office, sipping fine wines and nibbling on canapés is a great way to unwind. But make sure you’ve eaten a full meal beforehand—tasting three white wines, three red wines, and one dessert wine in one night is no joke, especially if you’re a lightweight (or just learning).
Make no mistake, Spiral definitely takes its class seriously: upon entering the function room, I see that each place is set not only with wine glasses, but with an information kit containing a primer on wine, fact sheets for each bottle we're about to taste, and a booklet for our own tasting notes.
Sofitel's Food & Beverage Manager and resident wine connoisseur Tanguy Gras starts with a brief lecture on how wine is made and terroir (the factors that affect how your wine will taste), but he goes through the details quickly so we could go right ahead to "the fun part." First things first: opening the bottle. There's a trick to it. It's harder than it looks, and a rather nerve-racking experience for a novice, but feeling the "pop!" when the cork comes undone is pretty satisfying.
As our wine is poured, Gras explains that tasting involves five steps: see, swirl, smell, sip, and savor. All that seemingly pretentious swirling has a purpose—it doesn’t just release the aroma of the wine, it helps you estimate its alcohol content and sweetness as well. The more “legs” or streaks flow down the side of the glass after swirling, the higher the alcohol content; sweet wines also have a more viscous consistency than dry wine. Gras tells us to sniff our Sauvignon Blanc. The wine definitely smells good, but I couldn't identify any specific scent until he suggests green apple. Suddenly, it's obvious. He advises that a good way to train your nose in identifying different aromas is to smell the meat and fruits in your fridge, cut them open, and smell them again. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to naming what you smell, since anything goes. Some wines even carry a whiff of petrol!
Canapés are served, including salmon and cream cheese with caviar, steak tartare, Roquefort cheese, and Valençay cheese. Don’t make the mistake of devouring them all at once—you’re meant to try them with each wine to see how the flavors go together. After the sauvignon blanc, we try riesling, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and moscato. Spittoons are provided, and don’t be afraid to discreetly spit your wine after tasting—even Gras does it! After all, no one wants to embarrass themselves by getting wasted. If you find a wine you like, the waiter will willingly pour you a second portion. Tonight, almost everyone’s favorite is the Menage a Trois moscato—not just because of its cheeky name, but because of its sweet flavor, which perfectly complements the eye-watering saltiness of the Roquefort cheese. At the end of the night, we get certificates and a class photo, and I leave the Sofitel pleasantly buzzed, in that sweet spot where you’re perfectly relaxed but still alert.
The wine appreciation classes are only available seasonally, but you can enroll in private wine and cheese tasting classes for P1,500 per person. They’re held in Spiral’s cheese room, L’Epicerie, every Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with a maximum of eight people per class. Feel free to make it a habit, since they serve different wines each time for repeat guests.
For inquiries and reservations, call (02) 832-6988 or email [email protected].