EXPLORE THE WORLD OF WINE WITH WINE52
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
I have just received the latest three bottle pack from Wine52. Before I talk about the wines, I have to commend them on the magazine they include each month, appropriately called GLUG. It is packed with most interesting and often provocative articles. Wine needs to lead to discussion and debate.
The first piece called "Fermented Grape Juice" is properly educational. It explains that unlike other drinks, it is not a simple manufactured product. It represents thousands of years of practice, reflecting place and culture, skill in wine growing and making, to bring joy to consumers, and the true life experience of maturing and decay.
The second piece, “Sweet Equilibrium”, explores the difficulties and fears of a 'died in the wool' beer lover, when discovering the joys of wine. An honest piece, and as I have been a brewer as well as wine man, I had sympathy with this article. Back in the 1980's I was tasked with improving the quality of wines served in the 11,000 pubs belonging to the Bass group. So many felt daunted by the labels, the regions, the terminology, but eventually we simplified and explained. I have spent my whole career trying to demystify wine but too many in the industry make it so complicated and snobbish. Bah, bunkum.
The third piece “This Wine Smells of My Little Ponies” is again thought provoking, linking the smells in wine to other experiences and smells. Again, this is helping demystify the sometimes ridiculous and obscure descriptors often used. When I give tastings I always start by reminding people that the smell is 90% of the flavour of the wine. Without it (bad cold etc) you can't really taste a thing. The mouth does a different job. It gives you acidity, bitterness, sweetness, texture, with only flavours from aromas going up the retro-nasal passage from the mouth. We all need to use our nose more!
Then there is a piece on Wine Myths, of which there are many! This article explains how to preserve an opened bottle for several days. The writer explains how refrigeration and various wine preserving gadgets like Corovin work. I often prefer some young wines I have opened the following day when they have had a good chance to breath anyway. It also says that if a wine goes off (vinegary) you can always use it as vinegar. Old Champagne, left open for a week or more makes a delicious summery light dressing. I use left over wine for cooking more often than not, but to be honest, there is not very often much or any left!
Then a piece on Pet-nat - naturally fermented Champagne and sparkling wine. The prejudice and likes and dislikes, a pleasant call for discovery and experimentation in the world of wine.
The sixth piece is on wine and food pairing. A subject very close to my heart. After all, most wine is best with some food. The writer ends up saying often the best pairings are from the wines and foods from the same region. Totally true, developed and honed often after hundreds, if not thousands, of years of practice. She talks about acidity and texture, which are so important. I would have liked her to mention sweetness in wine as well. Although not fashionable these days, the marriage of sugar and salt, and sugar and acidity, are extraordinary and not to be missed.
Then a good article about Biodynamic viticulture. One early practitioner I worked with in the Loire, Nicholas Joly, explained how so many of these practices, avoiding any chemical fertilisers or pesticides and treatments during various cycles of the moon and stars, go back to medieval practices, long proven to be invaluable. For instance, when building great Cathedrals where the timbers have lasted for millennia. So many of the world’s finest and most famous vineyards now practice organic, biologic, and biodynamic viticulture.
The final, ninth article, “The grapes that scrape the sky”, is about how altitude can create some of the best environments for growing great wine. A consideration, very much top of mind, now global warming is affecting many traditional vineyard regions.
GLUG is well worth reading and a lovely bonus alongside the little snacks which also come in the pack each month. It is well written, informative, and intelligently down to earth, avoiding the pretentiousness sadly so often associated with wine.
Wine52, continue to please their customers by finding, and explaining honest, unpretentious, but good wines of the world .
Onto the main event – the Wines!
This Month’s wines are a white from Spain, a white from the southern Rhone valley, and a red from Puglia in the toe of Italy.
I have to say, the favourite of the three for me was the white Rhone, 2019. The skill in blending the very different and flavourful grapes from the region to make a complex fresh crisp wine where you want the next glass, and where the wine cries out for a plate of grilled scallops, is distinguished. Excellent. The extra four years ageing add further to the complexity and balance.
The Spanish white, HOLA, is a young fresh crisp blend again of local varieties. The little known Airen being widely planted, with added depth from the Verdelo and aromatic freshness from Sauvignon Blanc. I liked this wine, a good aperitif and brilliant with poached fish with a creamy home-made mayonnaise.
The red, Meridiano, a very fruity, intense dark wine, in need of barbecued meat, or grilled chops. It is a dry wine from the warmest part of southern Italy, where the grapes are allowed to shrivel and concentrate in the sun before picking. A wine for those who like big juicy reds, and grilled steak.
Wine52, continue to please their customers by finding, and explaining honest, unpretentious, but good wines of the world.
Christopher Burr. Master of Wine. August 2023.