Do you find that choosing wine can be a bit like a game of roulette?
You pick your bottle based on price tag and a vague memory of having drunk something similar in the past. You fill your glass and hope for the best.
Unlike beer, which, generally speaking, you can rely on to taste the same from year to year, this wine stuff just keeps bloody changing.
Harvest after harvest.
And that – depending on your perspective – is either the trouble with it, or the beauty of it.
It undoubtedly makes life interesting for winemakers and wine aficionados, but not a little tricky for you and me. Multiply grapes by regions by styles by vintages and the choices are bewildering. Though we may get to know broadly what it is we like in a wine when we taste it, we may not have the vocabulary to describe it much beyond red, white or bubbly. So we often rely on those more knowledgeable to navigate the vast cellars, taste widely and recommend. With any luck, they won’t come over all poncey in the process.
In my case, and through the good offices of this blog, I’ve been given the opportunity to indulge in tastings and rub shoulders with those who are winewise. The knowledgeable ones were out in force on Monday, at the annual New Zealand trade tasting in Dublin, where I joined them for a couple of hours in a room with about 200 wines, all available for sampling (it is, as they say, a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it…).
Now, assuming that I manage not to become completely trolleyed during the tasting process (which, you would guess rightly, is a challenge in itself), experiences like this do improve the odds of my winning the next hand in the ongoing game of wine.
I might, for example, remember, if and when I see it on the shelves here, that I particularly liked the wines from Omaka Springs Estates, because their sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, reisling and pinot noir all seemed that bit different from the New Zealand norm.
I will also recognise Brancott Estate – the winery formerly known as Montana – and the original makers of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Difficult to forget, to be honest, especially when you get to meet the winemaker, Patrick Materman, and not for the first time. Difficult, also, to forget that he thinks the 2010 sauvignon blanc may be the best vintage he’s seen in his 20 or so years with the winery. Whilst I am not remotely qualified to be the judge of that particular statement, I can say that when I put this wine in my glass, it feels like I’m holding another winning hand.
With all this talk of wine, it seems somehow remiss not to mention food….
If you’re interested in excellent combinations of both (and who isn’t), you may like to know that Tom Portet, winemaker with legendary Australian winery, Penfold’s, will be hosting two wine dinners here in Ireland next month.
The first takes place in The Restaurant @ Donnybrook Fair on Wednesday 23rd February, cost €60 per person / €100 per couple. Phone 01 6144849 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to bag your place. Ballymaloe House in Co. Cork is the venue for the second dinner on Thursday 24th February, cost €75 per person. Phone 021 4652531 or email email@example.com if you’re feeling like a February treat.
And if your coffers aren’t quite up to the financial stretch of a Penfold’s dinner, then you might be interested in EatMagazine, a new free magazine which aims to cover the local culinary scene in Dublin. It will be distributed in print form around the city, but lovers of good food and drink can also enjoy the contents online over here.