Tag Archives: wine

Poetic Wine Descriptions…

…do they mean anything?

In the August/September 2012 edition of The Whistler I gave suggestions about how to describe a wine. Since then I’ve been looking at the issue from the other direction: reading wine writers’ comments to see how many words they use that really mean something to the general reader.

Descriptions in restaurant wine lists and on wine bottle labels are pretty disappointing. ‘Charming’, ‘quaffable’, ‘classy’ etc don’t mean anything except ‘there is nothing good I can find to say about this wine’. Continue reading Poetic Wine Descriptions…

It’s all Chardonnay

One of my favourite wine stories is that of the woman who exclaimed to her friends “I don’t understand why the young all want to drink Chardonnay! Give me a nice dry Chablis any time!” Her friends were too polite to tell her that the grape in Chablis is Chardonnay.

I like it because it reminds me how easy it is to make a fool of yourself talking, or writing, about wine; and because it raises so succinctly the most interesting question you can ask about a wine – what makes it taste like this? How is it that wine made from the same grape, using similar methods, in Puligny-Montrachet, just 125 kilometres to the south of Chablis, tastes so different? Chablis is like steel compared to Montrachet’s butter.
Continue reading It’s all Chardonnay

Blenio – the Wine List

Most people who live near Seven Dials will have noticed, or eaten at, Blenio, the restaurant just south of the Dials with exposed brickwork, paintings by local artists, candles everywhere, and white tiled tables in three partly separate ‘rooms’ on a level well above that of the street. This article is not about the excellence of the food nor the friendliness and elegance of the service but about the wine list. I always wonder, in a restaurant where the wine list has its own unique character, how this came about. An interview with Paula Black, co-owner of Blenio, gave me the inside story.
Continue reading Blenio – the Wine List

Reading a Bottle of Wine

Philip Reddaway
Philip Reddaway

The French attitude to labelling wine strikes me as absurdly blinkered. Faced with continued domestic over-supply, dynamic New World competition and a government determined to control what they see as an unhealthy beverage, one might have thought the industry would have got the bit they can control (it’s just sticking the right info on the bottle, after all) done to perfection. Not so. Lavishly, they adhere to tradition. By law AOC (Appellation d’Origin Controlée) wines can’t mention the name of the grape variety the wine is made from on the front label. Instead, with the noble exception of the Alsace region (not really very French) you need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of French geography and viticulture to know, for example, that when it says Pouilly Fumé on the label it’s Sauvignon blanc, when Pouilly Fuisse it’s Chardonnay.
Continue reading Reading a Bottle of Wine

High Summer Drinking

Want some inspiration as to what you might be sipping in your deck chair this summer?

Let’s start with a cheeky cocktail…I know it’s little “off piste” for a wine column but it’ll get you in the mood for some delicious wines later in the day.

When the temperature rises we reach for the Campari bottle. This bittersweet Italian is probably the marmite of the aperitif world…you’re just as likely to hate it as love it. I remember vividly stealing a sip of my mother’s Campari soda when on a Spanish holiday aged about 10, and trying hard not to gag. Now we can’t have enough of it. Two recipes: first, a long version, the Venetian “spritz”: in a jug mix one third Camapari with two thirds Prosecco or other sparkling wine, stir with ice and top up with some Perrier water. Serve in tall glasses and do as the Venetians do – drink lots of it! The second is more of a sipping cocktail, the classic Negroni: in a whisky tumbler mix equal parts of Campari, red Martini and Gin with some large ice cubes. Stir and feel the glow…you will only need one.

And the wines to follow? Rosé is the default choice for a really sunny afternoon; avoid anything too sweet (California, Anjou, and many New World examples). My personal favourite is our near neighbour here in the Rhone, Domaine Mourchon’s ‘La Loubié’, salmon pink, mid weight, aromas of crushed strawberry and refreshing acidity. Available by the glass at Balls Brothers wine bars in London and by the case from the Big Red Wine Company in the UK, £9.95 per bottle.

If, like me, you are constantly looking out for interesting whites that aren’t Chardonnay-based, here’s three that you should try. The first, a dry Muscat. Both the colour and the aroma of a dry Muscat can wrong-foot the unaware. Golden and with heavy scents of table grapes, most people assume they are about to taste a dessert wine, but in spite of its rich grapy flavour it is bone dry. My favourite local version is from Domaine des Bernardins at Beaumes de Venise but it is made in too small a quantity to export. Try the Aussie version, also excellent, such as Brown Brothers Dry Muscat, £6.49 at Sainsbury’s. Two other unusual whites for garden drinking this summer: the delicate, peachy Albarino from the relatively cool/wet north western Spanish wine region of Rais Baixas – Majestic sell a fine example from top producer Martin Codax at £9.95. Finally, from the south of Italy the blossom flower scented, mineral, herbal Falanghina from the vineyards around Naples. The version on sale this summer at Waitrose at a bargain £7.59 is well worth seeking out. Happy deck chair drinking!

If you are interested in one of our Provence based wine holidays please visit http://www.rhonewineholidays.com, or if you just want a fabulous place to stay as you drive through France we now do bed and breakfast – see www.bighouseinprovence.com

Philip Reddaway