A quick look at the pique-nique introductory booklet at the Canberra Wine House tells me everything I need to know about how to taste wine: Drink it. Lol. It’s up to you.

There’s lots of other useful information about sipping, swirling, and swilling but it’s this statement that makes me realise that this is no ordinary wine tasting.

Wine science student Emma Shaw (no relation to the Canberra winemakers at Shaw Wines) first had the idea for pique-nique when she was unable to find a fun and casual introductory course to begin her wine tasting journey. Sure, there were some long form courses but they were very high brow, and quite frankly a bit stuffy. She found a course she liked interstate and is now well on her way to becoming a winemaker herself, working with local vineyard Collector Wines. Not everyone who does a wine tasting course is destined to be a wine maker or sommelier and that’s definitely not her intention. The idea of pique-nique is to provide a friendly atmosphere for people who would like to learn a little more about tasting wine, without all the wank (as Emma would put it).

We began with five samples of simple cask wine, which Emma had doctored slightly to accentuate a particular flavour. Sugar, tea, citric acid and vodka give clear examples of sweetness, tannins, acid, and alcohol, with one glass left unaltered as a ‘control’. It’s a clever way to give us a clear idea of what some of those wine tasting buzz-words really mean. Emma encouraged us to think about how each wine felt on our tongues and inside our mouths.

After a brief lesson on the methodology of white winemaking we get into tasting the ‘real’ wine. First up is a comparison of two different Canberra region rieslings, then two Chardonnays. This is where all that swilling and swirling comes in, but it’s done with good fun. We also have food pairings with each kind of wine: the washed rind cheese and apple is particularly nice with the Collector Wines Tiger Tiger Chardonnay. There is lots of laughter as we try to find words to describe what we smell and taste in each glass, ‘It smells like a stable!’, ‘I taste cultured butter’, ‘Pepper, no, Christmas cake’!

We also compare red wines, two Pinot Noirs and then two different bottles of Shiraz. Prosciutto and pate are a complementary pairing to the slightly sulphuric Lark Hill Pinot Noir, and spicy salami smooths out the peppery kick of the Barossa Valley Langmeil Shiraz, which is the only wine that comes from beyond the Canberra region. Emma explains some regional differences between the wines, and why decanting can sometimes be a good idea.

To finish off we have a sweet Bortrytis Pinot Gris from Lerida Estate accompanied by a more-ish dark chocolate mousse. In the booklet we have a list of resources to learn more if we’ve caught the wine bug and, most importantly, information on where to find our favourite wines from the day.

I may not quite be a sommelier or winemaker but I definitely have a better grasp on how to select wines that I’ll enjoy. I’m looking forward to confidently choosing the perfect local drop, without sounding like a wanker. And then? I’ll drink it. Lol.

 Hosted by Emma Shaw a champion of Canberra District wines, Pique Nique is a two hour introduction to some of the basics of wine at the Canberra Wine House, Dickson.