Not to be one always looking back, whenever I start a new year I try and think about all the great times of last year and it helps me get really up for all the challenges and possibilites for 2020.
So whilst most of you are doing Dry January or something equally as healthy to overcome the post-Christmas and New Year booze/chocolate/meat comas, I thought I’d start the year with a quick recap of the wines that meant a lot to me in 2019…
For the past year or so, since an eye opening trade tasting last year, I’ve had a soft spot for the wines of Vinho Verde. It’s Portugal’s largest and most northern wine region, sitting between the Spanish border to the north, and the famous Douro Valley to the south. For many years now wine drinkers round the world have a set picture of what the wines of Vinho Verde are: spritzy, acidic, light, white wines. But scratch the surface a bit more and you’ll find some real belters!
Any wine geek worth their salt loves a good barrel room. Ok, going on trip after trip wandering round looking at rows of neatly packed new barrels can get a bit tiresome after a while, but it’s the smell of the place and knowledge that all that lovely liquid is ageing away beautifully under the oak. And at Quinta Do Noval they’ve got one of the more impressive ones around.
Port producers are pretty terrified of turning into the next Sherry. The harsh truth of that is that Sherry producers, rather infamously, let their drinkers die on them. A new generation of drinkers doesn’t know what proper Fino sherry is, let alone how to drink it properly. So they’re having to invent new ways to get the younger crowd drinking it. The best way so far? Cocktails! And the fine boys and girls whose job it is to market port round the world are right there with them.
One of the first things you’re told when you’re sat in your lecture room at WSET (wine exam board) HQ, eagerly waiting to tackle Port, is that most people in the UK drink it wrong. I’m not saying that they miss their mouth and tip it down their shirts, or that they stand on their heads and try and drink it backwards. It’s more that bad habits have crept into how lots of Brits drink Port. And as a Port lover myself, it’s that glorious mix of funny and annoying to watch it happen.
Once you start really getting into wine, it’s not enough to just head down to the shops, buy a bottle, and get stuck in. You need to be there, you need to wander round the vineyard and soak it all up. Couple of reasons really, one is that you get to drink the wine with the locals, eating the local food, doing your best to feel like part of the furniture. The other is that vineyards are invariably beautiful places. One wine region is chalked up on most people’s lists as the number one “need to visit”, and lucky little me got to go there a couple of weeks back…the Douro valley in Portugal.
I didn’t ever fall in love with the idea of wine by drinking an amazing glass of anything. I didn’t have a mate who had an amazing collection that they wanted to share the love with. I got into wine by going out on holiday to Piemonte in Italy and spending time in an insanely beautiful area with the winemakers who live there. The passion and feeling of what they do with their days is absolutely infectious. As knobby as that sounds, it worked for me!
Some events you get invited to and you think “yeah this is going to be pretty good!” Unfortunately you go into some of them with that attitude and they disappoint. Luckily for me, and everyone who attended, Sandeman’s 225th birthday party’s London leg was not one of them. I thought it’d be great, and it was!
For years I suppose Portuguese wine was about Port and Mateus Rosé. I know that’s a little bit unfair, but I’m looking at it from the perspective of everyday drinkers. I’m also talking about the 80s and 90s too. When you think of it like that it’s a bit hard to argue against. But no more people, no more!