There’s a saying in the property business that the 3 most important factors in determining how much you can sell your house for are ‘location, location and location’. It seems it’s much the same with wine; a bottle we opened recently could easily have cost twice as much if it had come from one of the more fashionable parts of the wine world – Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, perhaps – yet the delicious, Sauvignon Blanc-based white, Krasno, was just £7.99 from Majestic! Why? It came from Slovenia.
Not to be confused with Slovakia, (the eastern part of the now divided Czechoslovakia), Slovenia was always the most forward and outward looking part of the former Yugoslavia from a wine point of view and, in 1992, the country was the 1st to declare independence. Some of its vineyards, particularly those in the Goriska Brda area, where Krasno comes from, adjoin those of Italy’s Friuli region and, in fact, a number of growers have land on both sides of the border; how do they label their wine if it’s blended from some grapes from their Italian vineyards and some from Slovenia, I wonder?
But, back to the Krasno: apart from the Sauvignon Blanc, the blend also comprises a high quality grape variety local to both Friuli and Slovenia: Ribolla Gialla. The combination produces an attractive, quite fragrant white with hints of elderflower and lovely ripe pears on the palate. Although the Sauvignon is the majority grape, you wouldn’t immediately identify it as the flavours are richer than a Loire Sauvignon and with less tropical fruit than a New Zealand example. It seems the Ribolla Gialla is punching above its weight and giving the wine real ripeness and character. For just £7.99, the length is excellent, too.
And that’s all due to where this wine comes from. Customers will pay for famous names and well-known regions so, if you’re looking for a real bargain, remember the property motto: location, location and location.
Drink white wine chilled, red wine at room temperature. Isn’t that the first thing every wine lover is told? But is it always true? I’d say it’s not necessarily as simple as that. To start with, you’re the customer – if you prefer your Chablis warm and your Claret straight from the fridge, why shouldn’t you have it that way? (Just don’t expect me to spend time drinking with you!)
In the main, I prefer my white wines chilled, although not – as some people serve them – so cold that any taste is frozen out of them. But, as for red wines, I think we need to look behind the idea of serving at ‘room temperature’. When this suggestion was made – at least a century ago, as far as I can make out – central heating was rare and most living rooms were, as a result, far cooler than we expect these days. In fact, they were probably around 18 – 20˚C (64 – 68˚F), an ideal temperature to serve most red wine. That’s not so now when 22 – 24˚C (71 – 75˚F) is, perhaps, more common. So, you might argue that you shouldn’t serve red wines at today’s room temperature but slightly chill them instead; I say slightly chill them, not reduce them to a typical white wine temperature.
But there are a few reds that, personally, I would choose to drink even a bit cooler than this – and those are reds that are well suited to the very hot, sunny weather we have enjoyed (or not!) in Bristol for the last couple of weeks or so: light-bodied reds such as Beaujolais, Valpolicella, some Loire reds and some Pinot Noirs can all benefit from a half an hour in the fridge to bring them down to, perhaps, 14 – 16˚ C (57 – 61˚F). I find the chilling makes them more refreshing without masking the flavours.
But, that’s my view. If you want to drink your reds at present-day room temperature, then there’s nothing wrong in that; as I said before, you’re the customer and the customer is always right!
Riesling seems to be one of those ‘love it or hate it’ grape varieties. I’m generally in the former category but I get the feeling from talking to other wine drinkers I meet that I’m in the minority there. I know that everyone’s sense of taste is unique to them so, clearly, there will be some who just don’t like the sort of flavours Riesling offers. But, more frequently, those that tell me they hate Riesling point to the semi-sweet bargain-basement Hocks and Liebfraumilchs you used to find in every supermarket as the reason for their view of the variety. I have to be careful how I reply as I need to gently point out that those wines rarely contain any Riesling (they’re more likely to be made from Muller-Thurgau). But, even ignoring that misunderstanding, there are so many different interpretations of Riesling worldwide, it’s hardly fair to say you either love them all or, indeed, hate them all.
In Germany alone you find delicate, dry or just off-dry examples (try something from the Mosel), slightly richer bottlings from further south (the Pfalz, perhaps) as well as the wonderful fine dessert wines with only 7 or 8% alcohol. Across the Rhine, in Alsace, the dry Rieslings are more full-bodied, regularly with 13% alcohol, or there’s the lovely sweet late-harvest bottles. All very different from each other but all with the distinct refreshing acidity that is so much Riesling’s hallmark.
But, travel to the cooler regions of the New World – Oregon, Washington State, parts of Australia and New Zealand – and you find a particular local take on the variety: From Australia, especially, the acidity is often in the form of a lovely lime-flavoured freshness and a bottle we opened recently showed this to perfection: Howard Park’s Riesling from the lesser-known Mount Barker region of Western Australia (Great Western Wine, £12.50). Here, influenced by cool winds and currents from the southern ocean, Riesling ripens just enough and the result is a delicious white, ideal as an aperitif or to accompany lighter dishes with, perhaps, a gentle Asian fragrance.
I’m pleased to say that, over the past year, Bristol Wine Blog has attracted a whole host of new readers; in fact numbers have more than doubled compared to earlier times. Welcome to all of you! Interestingly, most of the newcomers are from the United States and so, as we’re closing in on the 4th of July, I thought I’d give you one Brit’s take on the wines you send over to us, starting with a delicious bottle we opened last night:
Clos du Bois Pinot Noir (Majestic, £14.99) had all the lovely silky smoothness I expect from this quality grape along with plenty of red cherry fruit and an attractive smokiness. And, with only 13.5% alcohol, it wasn’t too heavy and proved really food-friendly with pan fried duck breast strips with a tomato and mushroom sauce. It also brought back happy memories – it was a wine we used to sell at Harveys when I worked there way back before they closed their Bristol base.
But, sadly, it’s not often I can find such a gem; although we import more wine from the USA than from any other country except Australia, the vast majority is simple stuff from the major mass-market brands (Barefoot, Echo Falls and the like) at pretty much bargain basement prices. Now, clearly those please a lot of people and sell very well so I’m not knocking them, but, let’s be honest, when it comes to true wine lovers, there really isn’t much in these bottles to get excited about – or to blog about.
Yet, I know the US produces some wonderful wines. The problem is that the choice of good ones here is quite limited and the prices sky high: typically £25 to £60 – way above what most UK customers are prepared to pay. I’d just love to find something attractive at a more affordable ticket, but I struggle.
So, please, dear American readers (and others!): think about the wines you enjoy in your own home or in your favourite local restaurant. Are any of these from US producers who would like to sell something interesting and appealing in the UK and can get it on the shelves here around £15 to £20? If so, then do urge them to take the plunge. There are a lot of UK wine lovers who would happily pay that sort of money and so celebrate the 4th of July with an appropriate bottle!