Ever get in a panic when it comes to choosing wine on a menu? Do you order the same wine week in week out, and feel you’re in a rut? Well we hear you! When it comes to the world of wine there is so much – maybe too much – to learn that it’s very often bewildering. It begs the question: is it really so important to know your Rioja from your Riesling - and what should you know about wine, and what should you just leave to the buffs?
Sommelier Sunaina Sethi has a refreshing approach to wine, and that is: ‘hang the rules!’ Sunaina is restaurant guide Zagat's 30 under 30 award winner and develops the wine lists for Gymkhana, Mayfair and Michelin-starred Trishna in Marylebone. Her wine lists showcase bottles from all over the world, including many from lesser known vineyards and are tailored to compliment the flavours of the menu at both restaurants. She tells us, ‘My philosophy behind selecting wines, wine and food pairing and teaching about wine, has always been extremely straightforward. There are no rules. Listen to recommendations and advice, but ultimately you need to make up your own mind. Break as many rules as possible in the process for extra satisfaction.’
Here are Sunaina’s top 3 'no-rules' rules:
1. GO OFF PISTE
‘I have never been one to follow rules generally, let alone when it comes to wine. That smug feeling of breaking rules and coming out the other side with a story to tell is unrivalled. Surely that’s what rules are for? However much I love to go off the beaten track, I must admit there are certain guidelines one can benefit from following when it comes to wine.
2. IGNORE THE WINE BORES – ORDER WHAT YOU LIKE
First of all, trust your judgement. How many points a wine has received from someone you have never heard of is irrelevant. For that matter, two people can taste the same wine and come up with quite different tasting notes, and it isn’t important if you can’t identify the nuances of “blow dried cherries soaked in instant coffee.” If you have discovered a particular grape that you like, next time try one from a different region and use that comparison as a basis to start understanding the profile of the grape and forming your own opinions of it.
3. BE A WINE REBEL
Now for the more interesting part; what you should totally ignore.
- “Chill your whites, but not your reds”. You will find that some bigger bodied, fattier white wines (e.g. oaky chardonnays) can do with being a few degrees warmer to really show their characteristics and equally lighter red wines (some Pinot Noir and Barbera d’asti) can be most enjoyable slightly chilled
- “Fancy food should be paired with fancy wine”. Utter nonsense. I’m the first to shun generic food and wine matching rules and nothing quite beats a glass of Sassicaia with homemade, almost burnt burgers, or even a glass of champagne with a hotdog, as has been proved to us by sommelier Sandia Chang at Bubbledogs.
- “Drink white with seafood, and red with meat”. Such general rules can always be disproven, especially with Indian food. Sometimes seafood dishes can be very richly spiced, or come in an intense, complex sauce which needs a red wine to compete with it. For example, a seafood paella or biryani, can be well complemented by a juicy, complex Pinot Noir.
Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH, 020 3011 590
Trishna London, 15-17 Blandford Street, London, W1U 3DG, 020 7935 5624