Tampon Tastings


Wine show entrepreneurs behind Veritas, Michelangelo and the Old Mutual Toasty Show will be rubbing their hands in glee with news of an innovation that will increase capacity at tastings and their revenues: tampons to refresh judges between glasses of wine.  As reported in the Guardian yesterday, the UK’s leading celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, at Ellerman House earlier this month, notes “if you drain the moisture in your mouth you experience richness, creaminess and sweetness more intensely … and there is really nothing much more absorbent than a tampon.”

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At the recent Diners Club Winemaker of the Year tasting (above) held at the Grande Roche in Paarl, I was initially thrown by the palate cleansers supplied by the hotel – pepper flavoured water biscuits – which throws question marks at the Toasty Show Shiraz results, held at the same venue.

Diners’ judge Margaret Fry swears by a glass of milk and I find that olives are useful to counteract tannin build-up.  But the tampon trick from Heston clearly has merit.  Although the pompous palates favoured by some shows will likely need designer tampons as tasting in a bow-tie with a little string hanging out of your mouth would be just too ridiculous, even for Old Mutual.  Tasting tampons could even be branded by a sponsor like Diners Club in the case of blind tastings, by Tops at Spar if Orange River wines are in play or the Platter Guide in the case of sighted assessment.  Presumably red tampons for red and rosé wines and white for white wines.

Modest Heston assigns credit for the tampon brainwave to oral physiologist Don Prince.  “Don is the equivalent of me in the physiology department: he’s brilliant but barking mad and although I think he surpassed himself this time, it was not uncharacteristic.”

As Heston notes: “if you have a spoonful of ice-cream then put a tampon on the tongue for a couple of minutes, when you eat the ice-cream again the taste will be richer.  It’s certainly not something I would do for culinary enjoyment purposes, but it’s an interesting way to explore the taste receptors in our mouth.”  If tampons can clean up after ice cream, imagine what they would do for a flight of young Pinotages.

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As in so many things in the world of wine, the Portuguese are well ahead of the game.  Above is an art work made from tampons by Joana Vasconcelos, part of the collection of one of the largest investors in Portuguese wine, Joe Berardo. Veritas could whip out a few of these each year and use them as decorations for WOSA’s next green wine show.