Friday, 13 March 2015

Personal Wine Laws and Principles

A dozen personal Wine Laws and Principles. Some new, some artefacts from the archives.
  1. Taste wines blind and focus on whether you like them. Only then move on to provenance, style, age, value for money and the like. Not particularly practical at home if you know your cellar, but try with friends from time to time.
  2. Don’t confuse expression of terroir with typicity of a region. Just because a white from a classic Loire region isn’t recognisable as Sauvignon blanc the wine can still (but not always) express it's origins.
  3. If a wine isn’t to your taste don’t dismiss the grower. Commercial necessities often result in the production of various styles for various tastes and markets.
  4. The same applies to grape varieties such as Cabernets, Merlot and Chardonnay grown in the Languedoc. This is a bias I struggle to overcome.
  5. From good growers the so called lesser (inexpensive) wines can often drink better than the “top” cuvées. This can especially hold true in restaurants when a prestige wine may need more age and more expensive often means lots of flashy oak, generous extraction and bottles with more than 11 units of alcohol.
  6. One difference often found between professionals and amateurs is that professions will assess a wine in absolute quality terms while an amateur will focus more on whether they actually like a wine. Some professionals will subtly elude to both in their writings, politics permitting.
  7. If you don’t like a wine because it’s left field and you struggle for reference points then make a note to revisit it in the future – more often that not it will grow on you and even become a favourite.
  8. Don’t be put off drinking red wine in the heat of summer. Cool them right down; they warm up quickly once poured if necessary. Conversely try rosés, or at least full bodied ones, all year round.
  9. There are no such wines as natural wines, only growers who like to call themselves natural winemakers.
  10. Being a natural wine maker means minimal intervention in the winery, but requires just as much work and demands more skill and experience to get right.
  11. “on the limit” zero-sulphite wines are susceptible to warm temperatures, especially if the change is sudden such as a couple of days and nights in the boot of a car.
  12. Don’t take matching food and wine too seriously. If a wine doesn’t match a dish or even a meal just take a pause. That said, there are wines that really work magic with the right food and these should be supported or they will disappear. Local food with local wine is the rule here.
19th Century cépage illustration


  1. 1. The subjectivity debate is a good one. I agree with you that it is hard to not bring prior knowledge and expectation to tasting. It is good fun to blind taste with my brother in law for example as he likes wines from Spain and New World which tend to be blind spots for me. That said, I do enjoy seeing how a wine relates to its producer, is it a personal connection as in many we both enjoy, or a faceless wine. Though this does also enter your #3 as some wines are made as the cash earner to pay for more personal wine.
    2. Agreed, following your example I love Riffault Sancerres which are being denied an AOP! But #4 I struggle too, and that influences #1 for me!
    5. So true. Time and time again I like the entry level wines but struggle with those wines which have been oak aged in an effort to give them a 'serious' profile (and higher price tag).
    7. Yup except for Cab Franc which is always dreadful :)
    9/10/11 = all true, it's a dreadful label really. Intervention and decisions mean that wine is man made in the end. Know your producer.
    12. Great point eg red wine with fish can work well. Interesting discussion at a recent tasting about whether me not eating meat influences my thoughts about wines and am I missing out on aspects of the wine where it might be improved by the food.

    Lots of discussion points here Graham, you have set me off thinking which is always a good thing

    1. Agree the context of wine is important and in the overall scheme of things I do too little blind tasting.
      For what it's worth I'm a great fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire and prefer it to Cab. Sauvignon. I suspect this partly harks back to my youth when one had to adjust to plenty of green barely ripe claret and the like. Cab. Franc has this nostalgia association about it.