Now that we are in the Christmas season, with many lunches and dinners, let me tell you about the wines that I will be choosing as I am often asked what my favourite wines are. First and foremost they tend to be subtle, elegant, with ripe fruit flavours, well balanced and with characteristics of the region where they are grown. Wines that do not require an explanation, just give pleasure, you know them when you drink them. I am not into ‘freaky’ wines or those that are presented as being ‘natural’ but are clearly faulty.
When choosing a wine, whether it be in a shop or a restaurant, if the list is good, or for a dinner with with friends, it takes me a long time. As a wine professional you may think that it is easier for me but usually it is the complete opposite.
If I am hosting a tasting or a course, I always stress the importance of learning how to taste so that you find your favourite styles of wines, which is much more important that selecting a wine just because someone has said it is good or has won prizes or has a high points scores.
One of my favourite wines is Sherry. Particularly Fino and Manzanilla. It is one of the few types wines, strictly speaking it is a fortified wine, where the most well known brands are all very good, whether it Tio Pepe, Hidalgo or Fernando de Castilla. However, a particular favourite is Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama.
My favourite white grape variety is Riesling. I just love a dry Riesling from the Mosel, lighter fruitier style, or Nahe, dry with mineral character. You can find top quality dry German Rieslings if you look for the letter GG on the label, which stands for Grosses Gewachs, which are dry Rieslings. wines from the finest single estates. I am also a fan of Rieslings from the New World particularly Clare Valley and Margaret River in Australia.
Sauvignon Blanc from Pouilly Fume would be right up there on my list of my favourite whites. In this region the grape expresses its finest characteristics with green, grassy aromas with ripe white stone fruits and a refreshing acidity and elegance that I adore.
I would have to say that if I had to choose a favourite red grape it would be Syrah from the Northern Rhone. Ripe black berry fruit, spice, hint of oak and very smooth, powerful yet not over powering. I regularly go for a bottle of Les Haus du Fief rom Cave de Tain in Crozes Hermitage. South Africa also produces stunningly good Syrah, particularly from the Stellenbosch region.
I am also a Pinot Noir fan. Normally I will go for a Pinot from Central Otago in New Zealand. I love Burgundy but am not a specialist and it is a minefield to find good one without either spending a small fortune. Oregon in the United States is home to some stunning good Pinot’s but they are becoming prohibitively expensive, while the Leyda Valley in Chile is producing some very nice cool climate Pinot at very reasonable prices.
One of the most exciting countries in the world of wine to be discovered is Spain, which may sound strange. From drinking Godello from Valdeorras or a dry Moscatel from Alicante to a cool climate Tempranillo with restrained use of oak, from Rioja Alavesa or a Garnacha from Calatayud.
I am constantly looking for and discovering new wines that make being a wine lover fun and exciting.