Wine is the top tipple for many these days, here are some facts and tips to boost your knowledge at your next socially distanced garden party.
By Andrew Hirst
Wine is most definitely the number one choice among the team here at Places&Faces HQ. With this agreed the only major discussion points come down to red or white, and which variety. Occasionally the word rosé gets dropped into the conversation… the jury is still out on this at the moment.
I am most definitely not a wine snob, however it is worth buying a good quality wine, and even better if you can buy local. With so many excellent producers on our doorstep we are really spoilt for choice. Where a grape is grown is equally as important as how it is grown. From how much sun, the type of soil, the methods used and even the plants growing around the crop will dramatically influence the final product. The French have a word to sum up all these factors, “Terroir”.
Many of us buy our wines from the large chain supermarkets, but are we getting the most bang for our buck? A £5 bottle of wine only contains around 30p of actual wine with the rest of the money spent going towards packaging, logistics and taxes. Double your spend to £10 and you suddenly start to get a better return on the amount spent on the wine in the bottle, around £2.70. Spend £20 and your wine in the bottle rises to around £7. This doesn’t mean that if you keep throwing money at the bottle your wine will keep getting better and better, spend over £30 and you will find you are probably just paying for the name. £10-£15 is great area for your spend if you are looking at a regular bottle to enjoy.
Now we have a quality bottle of wine let’s get pouring and here are a few tips to get you tasting like a pro in no time. But it is worth remembering the main thing is to have fun and enjoy what we are drinking. Nobody is judging you if your favourite bottle is still a Mateus Rosé… hey, the 80s were great.
We can split out how we approach wine into three categories; appearance, nose and palate.
The look of a wine can give us clues about the age and flavours of the wine. First off don’t pour too much wine into the glass or you might just end up wearing it rather than drinking it. Tilt the glass, ideally over a light coloured background so you can see its colour and intensity. Next swirl the wine around the glass so you can observe the viscosity. When you stop swirling the wine will cling to the glass and drop down in tears. The thicker, closer together, more viscous and slower moving the tears the higher the alcohol content of the wine as well as higher residual sugars.
Younger wines normally have a brighter more vivid colour, and older wines are more tawny, especially evident at the edge. With red wines the deeper and darker the colour normally indicates a more intense, richer flavour. If a white wine has a golden colour it may indicate that it has been oaked.
Give it a swirl to release the aromas, now get your nose right in there and have a good smell. Younger wines tend to smell fruitier and much fresher. Older wines will have a much more complex aroma, where you may be able to sense leather, mushrooms, honey, tobacco notes or a nutty-ness. If a wine has been aged in oak then you might be able to sense some vanilla, toast, smoke, cedar or coconut aromas. It is worth noting that if a wine was produced in a cooler climate the overall aromas will be subtler and appear to be less pronounced.
Now the fun part. Tasting. Take a good slurp and aerate as you take in the wine. Don’t worry about the loud slurping noise… we’re all friends here. Oh and try not to slurp too much as we don’t want anyone choking.
Swirl the wine around your mouth and then ask yourself questions about how it tastes. If you have a warmth this will indicate a higher alcohol content; more warmth, more alcohol. Acidity? How much your mouth waters after you have swallowed will indicate higher levels of acidity. Sweetness will be felt towards the front of your tongue. Tannins will be sensed as a drying sensation around your teeth and gums. Length? How long do the flavours last? The body is a consideration of all of the taste factors.
Younger wines will taste fresher and fruitier, where as older wines are much more complex. The same as the nose, if the wine was produced in a cooler climate it will have less ripe and less pronounced flavours. The tannins in the wine will come from the grape skins and if the wine has been aged in oak.
A higher alcohol content may indicate that it was produced in warmer climes or that the grapes were from a later harvest. A higher acidity can indicate that the wine was produced in a cooler climate or was from an earlier harvest.
Now we have a little bit of base knowledge, let’s get out there and get tasting good quality wine. It is important that you try out different wines, grape varieties and producers to help expand your knowledge. But most importantly remember to have fun, enjoy your wine and drink responsibly.
Something from a Local Vineyard
We are extremely lucky to have so many amazing wine producers in this area… here is a selection of some of our favourites.
Another multi-award winning local wine, this time from Bungay, Suffolk, which was established by Ben and Hannah Witchell who have been making wine since 2016. A producer of another fine bacchus which is often compared to a Sauvignon Blanc and offers greater complexity with many layers of lime, gooseberry, elderflower and cut herbs.
Also of note is the Pinot Noir Précoce which is produced using a combination of Beaujolais and Burgundian techniques that Ben learnt first hand in France. It can be appreciated young, however like a good Beaujolais it will age beautifully.
Owner, grower and winemaker Lee Dyer produces a fantastic array of wines from this Norfolk based vineyard, including a vintage reserve sparkling, a pinot noir and of course the award winning bacchus. The 2015 bacchus was the winner of the Platinum Decanter Award best in show 2017 – best single varietal white wine in the world. Quite an accolade, and the 2019 vintage has been rated as the number one wine in the world by Vivino.com. This grape variety could well be known as the Sauvignon Blanc of England, with an elegant nose of grapefruits, passion fruits and floral characters. Packed with tropical fruit flavours with a clean crisp finish on the palate it is definitely worth buying a case of this absolute gem.
Situated in the heart of south Norfolk this family-owned vineyard grows multiple varieties on its 25 acre site including solaris, phoenix, schönburger, chardonnay, seyval blanc, pinot noir, pinot meunier, cabernet noir and regent. We particularly love their 2019 siskin–solaris with its flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and honey and the award winning 2020 Stonechat Sauvignon Blanc. It is also worth noting that you can book online wine tastings via Zoom, perfect for socially distanced wine evenings.
The vineyard was planted in 1988 on a south facing slope covering seven acrces with an estimated 12,000 vines. Producing around 12,000 bottles of wine a year which are sold through their restaurant and shop. You can walk through the beautiful vineyard for yourself from the Leaping Hare over to the Home Meadow and through a most beautiful ancient woodland. Look online for details of the guided vineyard tours, a must to appreciate the terrior prior to opening a bottle. The jewel in their crown is the Wyken Bacchus which is a past winner of English Wine of the Year, and in 2013 Best East Anglian Wine.
This fantastic family-run vineyard near King’s Lynn in Norfolk is currently growing nine different varieties; early pinot, rondo, regent and pinot noir for the reds, and bacchus, chardonnay, solaris, seyval blanc and schonburger for the whites. They have a great selection of wines but it is worth checking out the Pinot Noir 2020.
Another great vineyard covering eight acres and growing five different varieties including madeleine angevine, auxerrois, pinot gris, pinot meunier and pinot noir. Their Madeleine Angevine is of particular note with the 2015 vintage winning the UKVA gold in the wine of the year competition. The 2018 Madeleine Angevine certainly doesn’t disappoint either, especially with such a rich heritage, giving off aromas of stone fruit, walnut, apple and gentle hedgerow flowers. The palate presents a crisp, dry and exceptionally well balanced wine. Citrus flavours accompanied with ripe cox apple which culminates in an elegant finish gives us yet another great single estate vintage.
also on the list…
Chardonnay XV: A lightly oaked pure chardonnay, awarded the prestigious PDO status and a silver EAVA medal winner is an exciting English chardonnay.
Their Sparkling White has a fresh, orchard fruit aroma, with apple, pear and a hint of peach on the palate and a classic biscuit note adds a level of sophistication to the smooth, refreshing finish.
The Giffords Hall Light Oak 2019 made from reichensteiner grapes is proving very popular. The oak softens the wine and gives it a slightly buttery finish.
The Framlingham based vineyard has a good selection of wines including its Quercus 2017, oaked aged dry white wine which has a rich bouquet of vanilla and ripe tropical fruits.