Hands Up – I Have Serious Christmas Wine Envy

Buying Christmas presents? They’re pretty easy, even if it means a bit of planning because of COVID. Settling on what to cook on the 25th? With so much choice, there might be a bit of indecision, but it doesn’t last long.

When it comes to wine, however, that is a different story. What can we drink that is special enough for the day… and will look impressive on Instagram? While I’ve a collection of lovely wines, I can’t help feeling inadequate when it comes to choosing bottles for special occasions. My wines are not starry enough. Or if they are, they won’t go with the food (should’ve thought about that earlier). Or they need another few years. 

While I’ve always liked wine, I didn’t get into it seriously until about 15 years ago. I only started building a collection in 2011 when my kitchen was redone and I had room from an Artevino wine cabinet. Before then, I bought good stuff – but for drinking, not saving. When I did build a collection, I kept buying them in sixes or twelves. Just how many pictures can I post of Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012 and still get likes? 

I like to think I’m above feeling pressure from Instagram. It’s not a contest, I tell myself. It’s all about seeing what friends are up to, and stay connected wherever they are in the world. I love Instagram for the inspiration I get for new restaurants, or introducing me to different producers. But this all changes when it comes to Christmas wines. I see line up after line up of wines I can only dream of tasting. Is my 2005 Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux from a very minor Chateau up to snuff? Will I get accused of infanticide if I crack open a bottle of top notch South African Pinot that everyone knows needs another five years, at least. I could, of course, not post any pictures at all – but then I wouldn’t look like a credible wine professional would I? After all, it is the unwritten law that – if you want to be taken seriously in wine – you must broadcast what unicorn you have just slain to accompany your Christmas feast.

It’s bad enough that I can’t drink nearly as much as I used to. I go days without a glass of wine now, in the hope of better sleep. The Coravin is my best friend. This, in turn, adds additional pressure on what to drink on Christmas Day. It has to be special because I am drinking less, so nothing short of amazing will do.

I do find joy in searching through my wine store/cellar to see if there’s anything I have forgotten about. I don’t bother with any system as generally, I have a pretty good idea of what is in there. Lots of Riesling… why do I have so much Riesling? It’s not even my favourite grape.

This year, I fished out a Marc Tempé ‘Zellenberg’ Pinot Blanc 2013 which I’d overlooked on many other occasions. When I added the bottle to my collection, it was listed by the glass in so many places, including my own wine bar.  Lovely wine. But this bottle hadn’t aged well under my watch. The core of the wine had gone completely, leaving just sweetness. So I swung completely the other way and cracked open the remaining half bottle of some previously Coravined Urbina Rioja Reserva Especial 1998. No idea when the needle first went in. Sometime this year, I’m guessing. It still tasted great. Mellow and evolved, but still with a good bit of life – dried plums, tobacco, forest floor. We’d stashed this bottle when what seemed to be an everlasting vintage finally came to an end. And it was just perfect with our very late turkey lunch.

I might not have opened rare bottles of wine or spenny, cult  Burgundies. But I did still post the wines on Instagram. What a relief when I saw someone else post an Urbina Reserva Especial from a younger vintage. At  least I have some bragging rights left.

The Five HUGE Mistakes You Are Making When You Buy Wine

You’ve seen them, right? Those Twitter campaigns by a national wine warehouse and its online division telling people how stupid they are to buy wine that costs less than £5 or more than £10. And that if you spend much more than £10, then you are an utter fool because all you are doing is helping the winemaker buy a new, fancy Porsche. You know, that winemaker renting space in the corner of a winery who has to scrape together funds to show their wines in key export markets.

I’m not sure how telling consumers they’re stupid really helps them feel positive about a product. But wine carries so much social baggage – no one wants to look stupid buying the wrong bottle – that good old FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) must translate into sales. So, here’s my stab at telling wine drinkers where they’re going wrong…

ONE: Stop choosing wines by country. You’ve learnt to think this way because of how shops have traditionally segmented their wines, which is bonkers if you think about it. You can’t taste Italy. You can taste a light, silky Pinot Nero from Alto Adige or a full bodied, smooth Primitivo from Puglia. Which do you think you’d prefer? It’s smarter to understand and remember the regions you like. Better still, the styles.

TWO:  Stop confusing fruitiness with sweetness. It’s not that hard. Eat a peach. Then suck a boiled candy. Hopefully, you can tell the difference and wine merchants will stop rolling their eyes at you. Feel free to slap any merchant who then confuses you with talk about “sweet fruit”.

THREE: Stop judging a rosé by its colour. Dark doesn’t necessarily mean sweet. Unless you are buying it in the pub or from the convenience store. Then maybe it does. Yes, the aesthetics of a pale rosé are lovely, but if it’s just about the colour, drop a bit of red food dye into your Pinot Grigio and save yourself the angst.

FOUR: Buy what you can afford – drink the best that you can within your budget. But if you can afford a decent bit of organic, grass fed ribeye and some artisan cheese, don’t insult it with some bogoff plonk that’s got more additives than your entire dinner party food shop. (And if your guests do turn up with nice wine, serve it FFS.)

FIVE. Stop reading anything that tells you that you are wrong in your wine choices. Or that you are making mistakes that are so embarrassing you should walk around with a paper bag over your head.

Oops. Too late.



Wine On TV: Why The Price Isn’t Right

In a recent episode of the BBC’s Food & Drink, chef and presenter Tom Kerridge visits The Ginger Pig in London’s Borough Market and picks up a 500g of fillet steak. Not a cheap cut, I think you’ll agree.

Later, he cooks two large tuna steaks. No mention is made of how much they cost. No apologies either for using what many people would see as luxury items.

Yet when it comes to the wine matches, much is made of the price. We know first that both are under a tenner. Then we find out that the Jacob’s Creek Pinot Noir is £7.50 and the Casillero de Diabolo Carmenère is “seven or eight pounds, something like that”.  If the cost of the food doesn’t matter, why is the price of the wine so important? Read More…

The Modern Pantry Own-Label Wines

To The Modern Pantry in London’s Clerkenwell where owner, the chef Anna Hansen, has introduced two own-label wines.

Unsurprisingly, for a restaurant with New Zealand roots, the wines are a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir.

What is surprising, to me at least, is that these aren’t the house wines. Read More…

On Sabres And Champagne

So, Mr. SipSwoosh, on a business trip to DC, fancies a glass of fizz in his hotel.

He updates his Facebook page saying the barman couldn’t open the bottle, so now he’s called the sushi chef.

“Send for the wife with her sword!” quips a friend. For I can now open a bottle of Champagne with a sabre. Read More…

The Wine Gang Christmas Fair Ticket Offer

Like wine?

Well, if you’re reading this, let’s assume you do.

So here’s an offer that is hard to refuse. Discounted tickets for The Wine Gang’s Christmas Fair. Read More…

A Jolly Bolly Contest

Everyone has their price. Turns out, for me, it’s a bottle of Bollinger Rosé NV Champagne.

I was sent one to help promote a Facebook competition called “Travel with Bollinger Rosé”. Read More…

Bring Out The Old, Ring In The New

I recently wrote about how special it was to drink a wine from your birth year. In this case, it was Port.

But, on reflection, drinking a wine made before you were born is probably more magical – once you have a few decades under your belt. Especially when it’s illegal. OK, OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. The Sandeman 1955 Port inside the bottle I am holding in the picture below didn’t break the law. But the bottle itself – a tregnum (2.25 litres) – is no longer a legal size for the sale of Port. Read More…

The Port House

A few weeks back, I asked the great and the good on Twitter if they knew of any places that sold flights of Port in London.

I knew of bars where I could buy a series of small measures of different types of Sherry. For Port, though, the only option seemed to be by the normal-sized glass, and usually one style on offer only. Two if you were lucky.

I got some replies. None bore fruit.

But that has all changed with the opening of the aptly-named The Port House, tucked away amongst the monolithic buildings in The Strand. Read More…

Wine And Food Matching Aussie-Style

Take one Australian winemaker. Add a generous splash of celebrity chef (and fellow Aussie). Mix together. And what do you get?

The Neil McGuigan and John Torode Recipe Collection, a new food and wine matching venture that caters to people’s personal tastes rather than gives prescriptive choices.

“Both John and I believe there is a lack of confidence in many consumers. They’re too afraid they’re going to make a mistake,” Neil tells us at a press event in London. “We’ve taken the snob factor out.”

Their solution is for John to come up with 50 recipes and Neil to match three wines to every one of those dishes. Why three? Because nobody’s palate is the same. Read More…

One Response to “125ml”
  1. 10.17.2012

    Dear Paola
    We are a dynamic young team and the face of new modern German wines for the UK marketplace.
    We have an evolving ecletic growing portfolio of probably some of the most exciting young wine producers in Germany, and because of what we are doing is unique it has gained much attention from the trade and wine media.
    Our new website is currently under construction but you can still view our current webpage, if this is of interest I look forward to your reply.

    Kind Regards

    Sebastian Bode

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