I don’t want to be a wine snob, I just want choices

I’M TRYING ever so hard not to become a wine snob – but I might be failing miserably.

I’ve been writing a column for the Liverpool Daily Post for just a year, and I simply want to enthuse others without becoming a bloomin’ know-it-all in the process.

No airy fairy nonsensical comments from me – I’m keeping it real, down to earth. Or am I.

This weekend, at a friend’s function, a wine waiter leaned over and said “red or white?” “Oooh,” says I, excited, “what have you got?”

“Red or white” says the waiter – “yes, but what is it,” says me, wanting to know the grapes.

Red or white,” he replied.

He admitted he didn’t have a clue. I saw one was a Chilean sauvignon blanc. Seemed a safe bet. It had the aroma of dusty oregano, abandoned for years at the back of the kitchen cupboard.

The following day I was out for an Italian. The only wines to buy by the glass were pinot grigio or chardonnay. Give me strength.

Except it wasn’t strength I wanted, it was a glass of viognier, or gavi, or a non-dusty sauvignon blanc. I didn’t want – I never want  –  pinot grigio and, that day, not chardonnay.

Now I know there are many restaurants, bistros and bars which offer excellent choices, do so with style and share knowledge with the likes of us.

But these two venues offered really good food – why couldn’t they match that with their wine? Why didn’t a waiter know what he was serving? Why, when nowadays people are much more wine savvy, did I have only two choices of white to buy by glass?

Am I becoming a wine snob? You tell me.

At least I had some joy this weekend, with Wyfold Vineyard Sparkling Wine 2009 (£24.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk).

Wyfold was established by Barbara Laithwaite and a friend in the Chiltern Hills, where in 2003 they planted Champagne varieties chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. They have been guided by winemakers at Ridgeview – five times winners of the Best English Wine Producers in the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Barbara says of the sparkler: “It has a hint of gold – that’s the 2009 sunshine in the glass.”

Wyfold Sparkling WIne
Wyfold Sparkling WIne

This wine does indeed twinkle; ripples of bubbles glint upwards to the top of the glass where they gather in a fine mousse with every intention of staying put. The aroma is yeasty brioche and baked apples – and the marzipan slithers of Battenburg cake.

To taste, it had good acidity and elegant, mouthwatering, crisp apples and pears.

Also in my glass this week … Villa Ponte Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (£8.60, www.redretrowines.com) is a silver award winner at the Mundus Vini International Wine competition in Germany.

Former wines salesman Dave Turner moved to Bulgaria four years ago and later signed a deal with one of the country’s biggest wineries, Black Sea Gold, to import their wines to the UK.

His aim is to give Bulgarian wine an image makeover after much of the “plonk” sold here in the 70s and 80s.

The chard/SB has medium intensity with apple and smoked oak aromas. It has sprightly but not overpowering acidity with dried apples, minerality and fresh lemon tremors to finish.

Its sister wine Villa Ponte Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2009 is also a silver medal winner. Cab sav and syrah aren’t wallflowers when it comes to flavours and this ruby wine is peppered with spicy red berries coated with vanilla from oak aging.

 This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on  February 7 2013

Wine Press: Burgundy wines have so many guises and glories

womenmenTHERE’S a jokey cartoon that makes the rounds occasionally, supposedly illustrating the complicated thought processes inside a woman’s mind.

It’s an intricate network of nuts, bolts, wires and electric circuits, all cross-connecting and interweaving – and nothing seems to make sense.

All I can say is that whoever drew that hadn’t tried to get their head around the intricacies of French wine appellations, local terroir, hierarchies of classifications, labelling – need I go on? Believe me, a woman’s brain is simplicity itself compared to understanding the French wine system.

Take Burgundy wines. When I think about them my head hurts. Not because I’ve drunk too much of it, I hasten to add.

This region is a confusing little beast and no one column could ever do it justice.

However, I’ve found a helpful little guide – and very user friendly too.

Inside Burgundy: The Côte de Beaune is an interactive eBook to pop on your iPad, produced by Berry Bros. & Rudd Press.

Just for the photographs alone, this is a stunning addition to any wine enthusiast’s library.

Learn more about the famous wine-producing regions such as the Hill of Corton and Pommard – the people, the wines and the terroir.

Master of Wine Jasper Morris can be seen on videos walking through the vines; there are interactive maps which, with one click, take you to more detail on the vineyards and producers of individual areas.

He says: “I feel that over the last 30 years I have developed a body of knowledge and more especially a depth of understanding, of Burgundy that I want to share. If you open a bottle of Burgundy, or go to a tasting, if you visit the vineyards – you can add your own notes and experiences to mine.”

(It is available through the Apple bookstore at £14.99)

I’ve also been tasting Burgundy this week at Vinea on Albert Dock, under the auspices of the Liverpool Wine School.

Chardonnay and pinot noir are the classic grapes of Burgundy – with gamay making fruity wines in the southernmost Beaujolais.

Here’s one of each.

Domaine Gerard Tremblay, Chablis AC (£14.49) is pale lemon with the aroma of freshly cut green apples. It has cheek-pinching acidity with lime and citrus dash through your mouth with the cutting edge, and taste, of a wet steel knife. It is a refreshing, crisp, example of chardonnay from this northern part of Burgundy, where the vines gather their nutrients from ancient seabeds.

Domaine de la Plaigne, Beaujolais-Villages AC (£11.49) is a simple, no-nonsense ruby red wine from the gamay grape with strawberry jam on the nose and to taste. It has medium tannins. This isn’t a complex wine but is very drinkable.

Finally, one of the stars of the show, Domaine Heresztyn, Gevry-Chambertin AC (£45.99). A quality pinot noir, pale garnet with intense aromas of strawberries, herbs, and hints of old oak. Complex, concentrated and classily divine.

The wines are available from Vinea at u2us@vinealiverpool.co.uk