Welcome to my wine column where I’ll be taking a look at all things oenological. Here, you’ll find information on the latest trends and gadgets, investment advice, the places to visit and how to get the most out of your plonk.
As an independent wine merchant and importer, my focus has to be on finding wines you won’t see on the supermarket shelves; products from up and coming or forgotten regions and varieties that give us a great drinking experience but also offer excellent value for money. I’ll be sharing my recommendations with you and also inviting your questions and comments which I will aim to answer as succinctly as possible. I have no time for wine snobs – wine is simply about getting maximum enjoyment from what’s in your glass, whatever it might be. My contact details are listed below and do feel free to get in touch any time. There are, genuinely, no silly questions when it comes to wine.
It’s that time of year again. The time when rugby fans from all over the world unite to support whoever’s playing England. The BBC is allowed to air an actual sport (one that doesn’t boil down to who’s the best at exercising). Welsh fans do their best impression of England football supporters by losing all sense of reality and perspective. Journalists coo over an ever improving Scotland team’s ability to pass the ball from one side of the pitch to the other (bravely) whilst flip-flopping wildly from one extreme of opinion to next based solely on the last game they saw. Everyone delights in describing the French as being bursting with élan and unpredictability despite having for some years been international rugby’s most predictably one-dimensional and boring team.
It’s all great fun. No competition in world sport consistently attracts as many fans to games with stadia sold out tens of times over. Even Sky Sports News takes short breaks from analysing the move of Norwich City midfielder Tyrone Leroy to Stoke FC on loan to report on whatever inflammatory cricketing analogy Eddie Jones has made about Scotland’s front row.
Alcohol and rugby go together very well indeed. This is partly because you have to be half-in-the bag by kick off to cope with the prospect of your team losing to your neighbour’s team, which will result in a year’s worth of grief from the office’s secret Welshman (who’s lived in London his whole life and supports Man Utd, obviously). It’s also because unlike football fans, when rugby fans get sozzled it’s seen as part of the fun and no one gets beaten up (unless you find yourself queuing for a cash point outside Jumping Jacks in Cardiff at 3am in an England jersey and chinos).
Anyway, with the tournament having kicked off in style and in the spirit of the symbiotic relationship between alcohol and egg-chasing I have devised a definitive which-wine-to-pair-with-your-rugby-team thing:
Wales Vs Scotland:
For Wales it’s Red Burgundy all the way. In its best incarnations, it is hard to beat. Archetypically it has flair, elegance, power and finesse and a history which can’t be argued with. It is capable of producing experiences in wine that cannot be replicated anywhere else. However, its source material is capricious and the end product is often a disappointment, usually because the vigneron has refused to adopt modern techniques and training methods. Non pinotphiles often don’t understand what it’s fans are getting so excited about.
Vintage variation is often a big problem in Burgundy and it has a habit of being inconsistent. However, if this game were a vintage it would be 2005. Perfect in every way, the benign conditions and lack of pressure helped produce a Grand Cru of genuine class and structure which will long haunt the dreams of Burgundy fans, until the next dodgy bottle comes along. The winemaker is feeling smug but was it down to his expertise or the quality of the vintage? Time will tell.
As for the Scots, pair with Chianti Classico. For years Chianti was bland, unsuccessful and a bit sour. In recent years, the region’s researchers such as Dave Renniso have been able to identify the clones of Sangiovese which produce the best quality wine (Stuart Hogg 2AB and Finn Russell 167), which means that today the great majority of Chianti is almost unrecognisable from the pale, sour plonk of old. Using imported oak has also been a great help.
On first inspection this particular bottle looked okay but was clearly shot to bits and deteriorated quickly in the glass. Disjointed and bitter. Send it back.
France Vs Ireland
France is a “natural” wine. Well known for being unpredictable but, if we’re really honest with ourselves, 9 times out of 10 it’s a stinky mess that that tastes like flat homemade cider. Lots of people get excited about it but only romantics take it seriously at the moment.
On the evidence of this particular outing, new vigneron Monsieur Brunel hasn’t really had a chance to get a grip of things in the winery. However, there were signs of promise with a nice clean finish (from Teddy Thomas) and good structure. Just not quite enough quality to justify the price tag.