JWL Issue #143: Introducing Wine List Communities, 3 French whites from M&S, and vine ageing

June 15, 2021

When I finished studying the WSET, one of the best things I did was create a WhatsApp group for a few likeminded wine-loving friends. It became a place to share articles, ask questions, and dream about certain wines.

Discussion helps us understand things and deepen our knowledge. Having an environment to ask questions freely, but also share excitement and joy is really rewarding.

This year, we have started trialling WhatsApp groups for Wine List Community members. These groups are an informal way to further your interest in wine.

Conversation has been wide ranging. This weekend, we discussed the impact of natural wine, sulphites and histamines on hangovers. Last week, we discussed ideal age for wines. All of this interspersed by sharing bottle photos of what we're drinking at barbecues, on the beach, at home with dinner.

They are informal, and for many participation just means reading. We prefer shorter, high quality conversation in small groups, to endless chatter.

Today, we would like to invite you to join the waitlist. We'll be expanding these early test cohorts very soon. If you are interested, then please join our waitlist here.

Wine List Live Tastings

Today, we announce our first of live Wine List Live Tastings for June. We have three planned this month, all with a summery slant on them.

  1. How to make rosé – £28 – this Thursday (or by end of today). Taste four styles of rose and understand the different winemaking styles that go into it
  2. Tuscan Wines – £62 – five very serious wines. From 2000 perfect aged wonders, to 99 point Solengo.
  3. Intro to chardonnay – £55 – my favourite grape.Taste chard from Burgundy, London, South Africa, Oregon and a cult icon from Australia....

Next week, it's English Wine Week and we'll be having some fun with that when it lands.

Taste

Three French whites from M&S while you're getting picnic bits

The satellite regions in the hills surrounding Chablis can’t say Chablis on the label. They are called Petit Chablis. It means they’ve grown a little too far from the centre of Chablis itself and are usually cheaper. Petit Chablis (M&S, £11) is flinty, light and clean just like your classic Chablis - which you can get from the same producer for £1 (M&S, £12) more and try both together. The Chablis is weightier and more suited to a meal. Start your evening with Petit, finish it with Chablis.

Another white with that same flinty minerality is Pouilly Fuissé (M&S, £18 available in store only). Often confused with Pouilly Fumé which is a sauvignon from Loire, Pouilly Fuissé is chardonnay from Burgundy. This one is balanced, fresh and clean. It’s paired back rather than being too fruit-forward, with vines that are 55 years old.

Learn

Why does vine age matter?

Bottles sometimes show ‘old vines’ or ‘vielles vignes’. This can be an important indicator of quality of the grapes. After all, you need good grapes to make good wine.

Vines need to be three years old before they can produce grapes for winemaking. Any buds that (rarely) appear before then are discarded to protect the young, growing crop.

Vines produce an abundance of grapes at first. Then they slow down and produce fewer grapes at 20 years of age, slowing yet more at 50 years. Instead of producing lots of grapes and sharing its nutrients and sugars between them, it focuses down on the few bunches it is producing. This concentrates the flavours, resulting in higher quality grapes.

You can see how old a vine is based on the thickness of its trunk. Those broad, gnarly trunks belong to the very oldest. The oldest in the world is at Hampton Court Palace, it was planted in 1769 and still produces a large crop each year.

There is legally no definition as to what age a vine is ‘old’. It’s considered to be around the age of 50 - although we’d like to say this bears no resemblance to people.

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