Oenophile Resolution: February in Wine
"There is so much fantastic quality at affordable prices – £10-£15 will always get you something good."
Richard Leonard, Owner – Love Wine Woodstock and Boswells Oxford
The Christmas holiday is our busiest time of the year, but as soon as we get to the New Year it is literally ‘feast to famine’ for the wine business. Detoxing, or Dry January (or February!), is not only good for the soul but your health and wallet too, but now that I have been asked to write this column on a regular basis, it allows me to introduce some tips and advice to help you enjoy wine without being excessive.
There is a direct correlation to the price on the outside and the quality on the inside. I know some of you may say, ‘This supermarket or that discount chain offer such and such at an amazing price’, and yes they might, but they subsidise the cost to draw you in to the store and buy other stuff.
As an independent wine merchant we neither have the buying power to control what the producer puts in the bottle nor the desire to dupe the customer on quality versus price. That means the price on the bottle normally reflects the efforts and passion behind the label and the quality and quantity of the production.
February is the time the trade starts to consider its stock and new product for the 2017 year. We are always on the lookout for new producers who are seeking outlets to introduce their wines to the discerning British public. Australian producers are growing a whole range of varieties as well as the expected Chardonnay and Shiraz, so avoid the big brands and seek out some of the independent producers who strive for quality and price.
In our Tasting Room we always have 16 or so wines on taste in our temperature controlled and argon gas environment. The wines tend to be single varietals from all over the wine-producing world, so as an example, Albariño not from Galicia, Spain but from New Zealand and Viognier not from the south of France but from La Mancha, central Spain. You can taste and compare wine types and styles any time – great for a get-together with friends too.
There is so much fantastic quality at affordable prices – £10-£15 will always get you something good. As an example we have an Italian organic producer, Lunari who has just four wines, two red and two white. As a testament to the quality, we have supplied this producer to several of the Oxford Colleges in the last year.
Whilst wine retail may be quieter in February, it’s also a great time for me to visit some of our producers, because generally they are quieter too. I am at the time of writing in the United States, as I have a winery in North Carolina to visit: Biltmore Estate, the home of the Vanderbilt Family, has a striking likeness to Waddesdon Manor. Biltmore produce classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin and a range of Traditional Method Sparklings.
Then, it’s up to Napa to see our producer Ca Momi and be introduced to other key people in the region and taste some of the exceptional wines that Napa has to offer. Whilst I am in the US I have been asked to consult for a food hall that has a multiple offerings including Southern, Asian and Caribbean styles but require a wine offering that suits the food and the consumer’s pocket. One of the advantages of our British wine culture is we have good worldwide knowledge.
This time of year is also a great time to book your summer wine tasting trips whether you are staying in the UK or traveling to Europe or even further afield, research and book now to avoid disappointment. An easy way to select where you want to go is photograph the bottle or bottles you have drunk and like, from either a shop or restaurant on your smart phone – we don’t mind if you come to Love Wine to do that because most of what we have you won’t find outside of London. Go home and look up the winery online.
As an example in Napa Valley, California, many of the producers have Tasting Rooms downtown. You can still have a vineyard and winery tour but accessing the Tasting Rooms for many producers in a central area near hotels makes life easy, especially if you are on a road trip where driving between venues is critical.
Enjoy your wine in 2017. Be responsible and go for quality rather than quantity. Try new varieties for the first time and build up knowledge where you can. Sometimes it comes in handy.
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