One of the things I’ve found to be highly useful with wine is starting to take notes. There’s a very formal way of approaching this outlined by bodies like the WSET, which I touched upon last week, but for day to day use things can be simpler.
Note-taking means you can start to piece together things you have liked. Even if all you do is a simple ‘like - would buy again’ or 'didn’t like - don’t buy again’ then you can start to build up a good notion of your own taste.
There are lots of apps for this out there, but I think for the most point they’re overkill. Even the notion of giving a wine a score out five feels intimidating to me. I’ve got a small Moleskine that I keep in my bag and make notes of wines I drink. The great bottles, I’ll take the label off and stick in. Must be the inner collector nerd in me.
The sun’s out. If you are still drinking red, chances are it’s going to be the lighter end of the spectrum. For me there’s two go-tos in this category: pinot noir and gamay.
I’ve mentioned Beaujolais before as a great go-to for buying cheaper wine because as it’s meant to be drunk young, you don’t get the huge price tags associated with investment/ageing wines.
Louis Jadot is one of the biggest producers and therefore might have a bit of a bad rep amongst more serious wine drinkers. Their Beaujolais-Villages, which you can get at Tesco, is a fairly quaffable drinker. It’s a soft and fruity wine, but a good note of what gamay from Beaujolais is, especially if you’ve not had it before. It’s often down to £9 from £11 in Tesco, so keep an eye for it at that price.
The other great supermarket Beaujolais is Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, which Sainsbury’s and Waitrose stock. The 2015 of this was, for a long time, my favourite wine to drink: velvety texture, with soft strawberries and light blackcurrants. Vintages after this unfortunately lose the velvety texture, but still worth a taste. But I tasted the most recent vintage recently and think it’s been a return to form for supermarket red. Silky, spicy, red fruits. Soft tannins and the overly sweetness I’ve found in some years has gone. Well worth purchasing at the moment.
Pairing wine and food could be a newsletter in itself. I’ve loved wine for years, but never really got to grips with food and wine pairing.
I always opted for a sneaky google of ‘rack of lamb, peas and wine pairing’ while walking around a supermarket to appear like I knew what I was doing. Turns out there’s a handful of principles which can help in this area, and once you learn these you’ll be able to pair the vast majority of dishes.
Here is the one I find most important. There are two food tastes which broadly make wine less appealing, and two tastes that make it more appealing:
- Acid and salt in food are great for most wines. Umami and sweetness are bad for most wines.
- Acid and salt make wine less bitter, less acidic, less sweet and bring out the fruit.
- Umami and sweetness do the opposite.
- Fish and chips (salt and acid) will make all those overly dry, overly acidic wines soft and fruity. While chocolate (sweet) will make your wine lose its fruit, make it more astringent, more bitter and more acidic.
- So next time you find a wine that is paper dry with massive acidity, try pairing it with some salty, acidic food and it’ll change for the better.
Soon as the heat turns up, tastes seem to turn more to sparkling wine and rosé. One word which I’ve seen pop up a little more recently is crémant. Crémant is the name given for sparkling wine from France. It uses the traditional champagne method of production and often the same grapes (Champagne grapes are: pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay). This means that you are getting a similar drink without the Champagne designation price tag.