20 Years On

It’s more than 20 years since I passed my Wine Diploma so, when my wife suggested a de-cluttering session around the house recently, I decided that it was time that my old study files could go.  But not before I had a quick read through to remind myself of how the wine world looked at the end of the last century.  How different it was!

Even though wines from Australia, New Zealand and California were already common on our shelves, the syllabus devoted more time to each of Bordeaux and Burgundy than it did to the whole of the ‘New World’.  And the prices!  Simple wines for less than £3 and a 2nd Growth Bordeaux for about £20.  Those were the days!

But, perhaps, most significant of all were the alcohol levels of our tasting samples: some were as low as 8%.  The majority were around 11% or 12% and only a Châteauneuf du Pape and an Amarone reached 13%!

Anyway, back to 2022 and later in the day I opened a Greek red to accompany our dinner – the only mention of Greek wines in my old files was a rather dismissive note about Retsina. 

Seméli’s Nemea Reserve (Novel Wines, £15.99) was a delicious, complex red made from the local Agiorgitiko (aka St George) grape; it was full of lovely black fruits (bitter cherries and blackberries) together with some dried fruits and subtle spicy oak from its 12 months maturation in barrel and, despite its 14% alcohol (what would they have made of that in 1999!), it was beautifully balanced with no signs of alcoholic burn. 

Like most reds, this definitely needs food to show at its best – a nice juicy steak springs to mind – and benefits from decanting an hour or so before you drink it to let it open up and show its true character.

The wine world has certainly moved on in 20 years – in some ways better, in others not, but the rise of wines from previously ignored countries gives a diversity that I could only have imagined as I sat my exam papers all those years ago.


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