I went out for a reunion meal with some friends and former colleagues at Bristol’s River Station restaurant recently and, inevitably, the wine list was pushed in my direction. Choosing wine for a dozen people is never easy, particularly when, as here, I didn’t know much about the tastes of many of them. I also had to bear in mind that we were there to catch up with each other and to chat, not to taste and appreciate the wine. As a result, my focus was on wines that no-one could really dislike at prices that few could object to. I could have been forgiven for choosing something cheap and bland, but I wanted to do better than that.
The guests were ordering a wide range of different dishes so a white and a red were clearly needed. I love the Spanish variety Albariño and there was a nice example on the list, similarly a Mâcon-Villages caught my eye. But I eventually chose Peter Schweiger’s Grüner Veltliner from Austria (around £30 on the wine list) as the white – fairly rich and full-bodied with plenty of fruit but unoaked; a wine with plenty of character but fresh and harmonious that should pair well with most dishes.
For the red, I was looking at the South American section of the list – a Chilean Merlot or Carmenere or an Argentinian Malbec, perhaps – when our server pointed to Prunus Tinto, a Portuguese wine from the Daô region (also about £30), which was a personal favourite of his and, apparently very popular. I hadn’t initially considered this – although I’m a big fan of Portuguese wines, they can be tough and tannic, which wasn’t the type of wine I wanted for the group. But, he assured me that this was very drinkable and I went along with his recommendation. I’m pleased I did as this proved a real winner: very soft and with lovely black fruits and a slight smoky edge.
My reward for 2 successful choices? I’ll get the job of choosing again next time!