While we at Grazia Towers like to quoff the odd glass of wine, not many of us would profess to be connoisseurs. Life is too short to know the intricate ins and outs of each and every grape variety. But it is helpful to know what to look for when you're handed the wine menu, especially when you've been given the job of 'ordering for everyone' at the dinner table and don't recognize a single wine on the card.
Cat Lomax is Wine Buyer at Waitrose. When she's with friends she's always the one given the task of choosing the wine. Cat and her team is responsible for stocking the nation's wine cabinets and has a multi-million pound shopping budget to play with. She says the main thing, when it comes to ordering wine, is not to worry that you don't know the wines and ask the waiting staff for advice. 'Tell them what you normally like and get them to suggest something similar. That's what they're there for.' Cat and her team paid us a visit to Grazia HQ to show us some basic wine rules that we could use the next time we were out on the town. Here's what we learned...
1. English 'champagne' tastes the business.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, £31.99, is not only award-winning, but it is considered one of England’s best sparkling wines (Note: champagne is 'champagne' only when grown in the Champagne region of France). Made using champagne methods, traditional grape varieties and production techniques, it is actually grown in the same chalk seam that French champagne is grown on. The official tasting notes say Nyetimber is 'creamy and rich with notes of brioche complimented with a refreshing citrus twist'...and the Grazia team's verdict? Our favourite wine of the night.
2. English rosé is not bad either
So here's a turn up for books, English rosé wine tastes rather good, infact so good, if we closed our eyes, we could have been drinking it in a chic seafront bar somewhere sunny in the South Of France, rather than a rather crowded meeting room on Thursday evening when we were putting the finishing touches to that week's issue. Waitrose told us they stock the widest selection of English rosé in the market and expect sales to double this year. And with really great-tasting wines like the Bolney Estate Foxhole English Rose 2013, £12.99, we can see why.
3. Chardonnay is making a comeback
The official drink of the Bridget Jones/Footballers Wives era is, according to many wine experts including Cat, ripe for a revival. Apparently in the nineties we just reached saturation point and now winemakers who produced the previously oaky, butterscotch style of the old Chardonnay have set about giving it a modern makeover. In answer to the rise in popularity of a fresher style of white like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio they have set about creating Chardonnays that are more elegant with less oak. The warmer Chardonnay producing countries like Australia have also changed where the Chardonnay is grown, switching to more on cooler climates which produces wines that are less alcoholic, lighter and fresher. A good wine to illustrate the move to lighter, brighter Chardonnay would be Champteloup Chardonnay, £7.99. This hails from the Loire Valley in France and is unoaked. It's bright, fresh, zippy & the complete opposite of the Chardonnay that people remember from the 90s.
4. Old world and new world wine: there is a big difference
Can’t choose between a red or white wine? Work out where it comes from. There is a difference between Old World and New World wines, and although we kind of knew this already, Cat gave us both old world and new world whites and reds to drink so we could we properly compare the two.
Old World wines are made in countries that are considered the birthplaces of wine, eg Europe and the Middle East. These include: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Croatia, Hungary and Switzerland. Characteristically, wines from the Old World tend to be lighter-bodied, more restrained, and lower in alcohol, though this is not always true.
New World wines come from countries that used to be colonies, including the U.S, and have hotter climates, which means they are generally fuller bodied and have bolder fruit flavours. They also tend to be higher in alcohol. New World countries include: the U.S, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Australia and South Africa.
5. San Leo Prosecco, £10.49, is Waitrose's most popular bubbly, and outsells everything on the shelves
Waitrose say San Leo Prosecco is a ‘fresh and fruity Italian fizz with a lovely aromatic bouquet. Add peach juice for a Bellini.’ We say it was a good price for a decent bottle of summery fizz that's guaranteed to get a party going.
And the best of the rest....
San Leo Asti NV, £9.99
Deliciously fruity & fresh fizz with some sweetness, San Leo Asti is softly sparkling and packed with green apple and green grape flavours. A great partner to sponge cake or fruit desserts.
Waitrose Sancerre La Franchotte, Joseph Mellot, £14.49
Fresh nettle and herbal aromas mingle with an appetising gooseberry-fool opulence in this Waitrose Sancerre. Vibrant fruit flavours are nicely balanced by crisp citrusy acidity.
Waitrose Sauvignon Blanc, Villa Maria £10.49
A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours and a twist of fresh mint and minerality on the finish.
Cave de Saint-Desirat Saint-Joseph, £13.99
This classic red wine is made from 100% Syrah grapes and has warm raspberry and blackberry fruit flavours streaked with subtle hints of liquorice.
Waitrose Reserve Shiraz, St Hallett, £11.99
Chocolatey, oaky red wine made exclusively for Waitrose with ripe red and black fruit and hints of spice.
Mirabeau Cotes de Provence Rosé, £8.99
This beautifully bright rosé is elegant and seriously refreshing with gorgeous aromas of wild strawberries and juicy raspberries.
Barefoot Pink Moscato, £6.99
This moscato has aromas of raspberry and pomegranate, light on the palate with a lingering citrus finish. These sweet blush wines are growing in popularity as they are comparatively low in alcohol.