“A WHIFF of blackcurrant bush and a taste of green peppers”
…The way all wines are described today is the sole responsibility of Jilly Goolden. When she started as the wine ‘expert’ on BBC’s Food and Drink back in the 80s, she realised she had a problem… how to tell viewers at home how a the glass of wine in her hand actually tasted. Old-fashioned winespeak was widely used at the time, using such unhelpful descriptions as ‘elegant’, ‘ backbone’, ‘well bred’. That obviously wouldn’t do, so Jilly decided to liken the scents and flavours she found in the glass to everyday scents and flavours her
audience would relate to at home. And this new language for wine was adopted around the world.
The audience for Food and Drink back then was about six million viewers a week, and often JIlly and her co-presenter Oz Clarke would conduct tastings for the audience, who had bought a bottle in readiness.
Probably the largest tastings in the world.
But things have scaled down for Jilly now. Having continuously presented programmes on television for 30 years, mostly geared around food and drink, she took stock. Why not try something entirely different and host tastings for intimate audiences at home? So began her Wine Room, held in her house on Ashdown Forest in Sussex.
This is no ordinary tasting, however. Weaving a narrative around a diverse collection of at least a dozen wines, the tasting adopts the atmosphere of a relaxed dinner party, with up to 14 guests. There is nothing formal or daunting about it.
As Jilly remarks, “Everyone with a sense of smell and a tastebud can taste wine.” And under her guidance this informative but amusing revelation of some hidden jewels from the thousands of wines available in the UK unfolds during an afternoon, topped off with champagne and canapés. It really has become a party by then.
Jilly Goolden’s Wine Room Experience at the Wine Room in Ashdown Forest is on Saturdays September 9 and 30, 2.30pm-7pm. £125pp. Phone 01342 822251 or visit jillygoolden.com.