The Confidentials team tries to stay classy in the face of fine wine, meat and cheese
If you’re looking to attend a classier pres than the usual at Concert Square, learn a few grape-themed facts for your next dinner party, or simply have a good old-fashioned piss-up, then a tasting at City Wine Bar’s got you covered. Expect plenty of buzzwords like skin-contact and tannins, but don’t fret if you’re not fussed about getting a sommelier’s education: you’ll be served five wines to put your Friday bottle of Lidl’s finest to shame – plus a pile of perfectly paired meat and cheese to help soak up some of that booze (I never expected the fennel salami to go so well with a glass of Italian red!).
It’s also a pleasant surprise to be served a batch with no duds – often a package deal contains one or two tipples that are a hard-sell, but not this time.
A table is set for the Confidentials team beyond the bar area: sleek rows of empty glasses orbit the charcuterie centrepiece. It’s quiet enough to hear the instruction from Nick – today’s wine guru – not to eat anything yet, which is immediately ignored by Jake who sneaks a grape before any pictures can be snapped. He’s off the booze today though, so we’ll forgive him.
Up first is a glass of Pinot Gris – an easy sipping white made from the same grape as Pinot Grigio but a touch classier. While Nick assures us “there are no wrong answers,” to the question, “What can you smell?” melon isn’t quite what he’s looking for. He takes all our off-the-wall suggestions in his stride and finally puts us out of our misery: we should be getting lime. Then it’s onto the best bit – the tasting. Nick walks us through the right way to drink wine (apparently it’s not necking it from straight from the bottle): one big gulp, then two small sips.
Second is a Funkstille Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Now if you’re like me, you’ll have no idea what any of that means, but as it turns out it’s another quaffable white. In fact, it puts the first glass to shame; it’s a testament to City Wine Bar’s philosophy of sourcing quality wines beyond famous names and regions. “We do a lot of blind taste tests,” Nick reveals. “It’s never about the bottle but what’s inside it.”
Then comes the biggest divider of wine-connoisseurs: orange wine. Previously called amber wine and rebranded in recent years, it’s got sod-all to do with oranges. Essentially, Nick tells us, it’s white wine made like red wine, with the skins left on the grapes to give more tannins and a fuller body. He’s picked what he calls an “entry level” orange, and we all agree it’s our favourite out of the three so far. At this point, only some of us are still following Nick’s advice on the food pairings (sorry Nick).
A chilled red is our penultimate tipple, and after the usual nose and taste test, Hayden throws Nick a curveball: “Can the answer ever just be grape?” He tells Hayden no as diplomatically as possible – blackberry was the right answer this time, but we’ve lost track of who was winning. The best is saved ‘til last: a Sangiovese which takes its name from the dark red colour which literally translates to “the blood of Jupiter” (pretty metal, right?). We scavenge the last of the meat and cheese as tactful sipping descends into draining the final glass.
The tasting itself is something of an art. It’s clear that Nick has put a lot of thought into not only the specific wines chosen, but the order in which they should be sampled: the five wines creep up logically in tannins and boldness; a crisp acidic white, sensibly, never follows a spicy red. It’s also a pleasant surprise to be served a batch with no duds – often a package deal contains one or two tipples that are a hard-sell, but not this time.
We’re given enough factoids throughout to justify the concept of a tasting over simply sharing a few glasses of wine, but not so many that the experience strays into exam territory. Want to know whether to judge a wine by its bottle, or learn why “legs” are a myth, Nick’s got you covered, but the laid back demeanour of City Wine Bar means you’re left alone for long enough to simply sit back and sip a nice glass of wine. We’ll definitely be back.
City Wine Bar and Kitchen, 21 Old Hall St, Liverpool, L3 9BS
Tastings are £30pp for groups of 2-30. Full details on their website