If you plan to treat yourself once this week then make it a bottle of sweet wine from Sauternes in SE Bordeaux. Sweet botrytised grapes (that have undergone a form of rotting whilst still on the vine which we refer to as noble rot) appear in nearly all wine shops and supermarkets but are very under-bought by the masses. This is crazy as the depth of flavours are often out of this world.
The colour is very golden and rich. It is an alluring drink that when you pour it in the glass you'll see that the glycerol grips the sides leaving a film coating (or "legs"). Dip your nose into the liquid and inhale deeply savouring as much as you can becuase more than likely there will be a shock of pleasure wafting over your senses.
|Reds - I have walked into many a room to see eager incumbents with
bottles of red warming next to an open fire whilst they rub their hands
of expectant joy. The trouble is with this practice is that the wine
when heated loses a great deal of its flavour. The subtle fruit
characteristics, tantalising spice and hints of french oak (or whatever
complexing factors are added by the wine maker) are all lost to the
heat. The only remaining taste is the alcohol. To some that is all
that is required but to a wine lover it is the true taste and expression
of the wine that we're after.|
Wines made from bigger grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz), Burgundian Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Sangiovese are best served at around 14-16 C. For lighter wines such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir from Alsace, for example, it is best to serve them cooler at around 12-14 C. I noticed in Spain recently that many Rioja's were being served cool straight from the fridge. This is lovely and refreshing when the temperatures are high outside.
Whites - Just as with reds being served too hot, white wine is very often served t0o cool. When the wine is served ice cold it can often eliminate many of the great flavours that are trying their utmost to get out and onto your palate. Conversely, serve the wine too warm and it will lack decent structure and feel "flabby" in your mouth. It is an easy characteristic to pick out.
The best solution is to simply check the wine for yourself and get confident at making a judgement. If the wine has a nasty finish or is a bit aggressive in the mouth then you may as well chill it some more as it will mask the awfulness. Otherwise let the wine cool down in order to release some of the great flavours. The best serving temperature to aim for with white wine is 12-13 C. This should cover the bases and you can chill up or down depending on how you assess the wine.
N.B. I've said this before but if you only drink half a bottle and want to keep the rest then put the top back on to stop air getting in touch with the fluid and then store in your fridge. Aim for a storage temperature of about 10C and the wine will be good to go the next night. This is a good tip for red and white wines.
|People don't often get as excited as they should when a bottle of decent Riesling presents itself. Dr Burklin-Wolf's 2010 Riesling that I have right now in my glass is wooing me at every turn. The colour is bright golden straw and the nose is enticing butterscotch and honeydew melon. |
In the mouth the wine keeps on giving. The acidity is perfectly balanced and puckers the inside of the cheeks with a mixture of fruit sweetness and more butterscotch, melon and hints of something tropical. There are licks of the trademark kerosene but most of all I think this wine is an echo of joy.
£12.95 Jeroboams Wine Merchants
More often than not we associate the decanting of wine with the pomp,
ceremony and expectation of drinking something out of the ordinary. But
the truth is that decanting even less grandiose wines grabbed from the
supermarket shelves in the £5-10 range can have a game changing effect
on the tasting experience.
|85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon - decant this wine and let it open up to get the best out of it. A light balance of oak and fruit make this an excellent value hit for claret lovers. I only drank half the bottle on Thursday evening and on returning to it on Friday it had fully evolved into a wholely good ordinary claret. At this price it is an absolute bargain.|
£6.50 The Wine Society
This wine certainly looks the business on the shelf in the gold wire frame and antique style label. To be fair it lives up to the pomp. The fruits are what you'd expect from good quality tempranillo, light red fruits with hints of strawberry underpinned by mellow vanilla oak. Thankfully the oak isn't overdone and that helps every glass slip down nice and easily. I can strongly recommend this very pleasant wine at an excellently priced £6.74. Don't forget to wheel out some good quality duck or beef to enjoy to the max!
13% abv Waitrose
As you'd expect from Saint Emillion, this wine is Merlot driven but boy is it a good buy. It is perfectly smooth with elegant fruit, light spice and, what we all are looking for: just one more glass drinkability! I opened this with a few friends and everyone remarked on the quality. Great drinking for a tenner - a good pick from Waitrose.
|Mostly Merlot with 35% cabernet franc and 5% cabernet sauvignon - healthy nose of blackcurrents and smooth tannins on the palate. I had this with lamb shanks slow cooked in foil in oil and an inch of water with rosemary. The result was a perfect match. The tannins held up to fattiness in the meat juices and the bottle was consumed fast and with ease. It is a strong wine at 14% abv so keep that in mind if you're working your way through a case! Maybe open with weaker German Reisling from the Mosel to pave the way to South West France!|
£8.99 from Averys
|Youthful with typical Bordeaux character - needs decanting but there is real pleasure when this "morish"
wine opens up. Dark fruits and a good bite of tannin make this a
perfect benchmark claret at pretty good value for money. 2009 is a
great vintage worth familiarising oneself with.|
Stockists: Direct Wines & laithwaiites.co.uk
Watch: Wine Tips from the Grape-Pickers Party
After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of.
Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!
From Picasso to Pecorino Wine (not cheese!!)
What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.